There is an interesting settlement settlement this week between the Department of Education and Temple University’s Fox School of Business and Management. Temple has long been accused of falsifying information to inflate its ranking on U.S. News and World Report. The USNWR rankings are now key to admissions for most schools and Temple has been accused of lying to both the magazine and its applicants for years.
The DOE alleged that Temple’s Fox School of Business and Management submitted false information between 2014 and 2018. While the Temple University agreed to pay $700,000 in the settlement, it has not admitted guilt. However, the Department declared:
“The Department believes that, to increase enrollment, grow revenue, and harm competitors, Temple’s Fox School knowingly, intentionally, and substantially misrepresented the nature of certain of its educational program by advertising the false rankings by U.S. News and World Report thousands of times via online portals, social media, fully wrapped buses and newsstands, highway billboard signs, and advertisements at airport terminals, on trains, at train stations, in magazines, in newspapers, and on television and radio.”
The settlement follows another more costly settlement that followed a lawsuit by Kyle Smith who sued after he was admitted in the Fox School of Business Online MBA program. Temple University agreed to pay more than $5 million as part of the settlement for “fraudulent and deceptive business practices.”
Academics often criticize the USNWR rankings. I am not one of those critics. While I often disagree with some of the rankings, they are generally accurate and give applicants information that was simply not available when I applied to college and law school. What I do find objectionable is the annual manipulation of the criteria to force changes in the rankings each year. The rankings hardly sell without dramatic dips and rises each year. This often seems achieved by sudden changes in criteria or weighing of criteria. Nevertheless, the rankings add a degree of transparency and accountability for universities and colleges.
Temple just saw the accountability aspect expressed in real and costly terms.