Emory U: False data sent to rankings groups

Emory officials have investigated the rankings data since May.

Prestigious Emory University intentionally misreported student data to rankings magazines for more than a decade, the Atlanta school disclosed Friday, adding its high-profile name to a growing list of institutions caught up in scandals over rankings pressure.

As far back as 2000, Emory’s admissions and institutional research offices overstated SAT and ACT scores by reporting the higher average tallies of admitted students, rather than those enrolled, as is required, president Jim Wagner announced in a letter to the university community.

Those figures were reported to organizations including college rankers, the most prominent of which is US News & World Report.

The investigation also found similar misrepresentations related to students’ class rank. Emory may also have excluded scores from the bottom 10 percent of students.

“It’s very unfortunate that leaders at educational institutions have to succumb to these kinds of pressures to improve rank,” said Lloyd Thacker, executive director of the Education Conservancy, a group that works to reduce competitive pressures in admissions. “They don’t need to do this. It baffles me. We expect integrity from our higher educational institutions. If we can’t trust them then who can we trust?”

Wagner said two unidentified former Emory admissions deans and the leadership of its institutional research office were aware of the practices. The university began investigating in May after John Latting, who was named dean of admission last year after serving at Johns Hopkins University, noticed discrepancies.

None of those involved in the misreporting still work at Emory, but citing personnel matters, the university declined to name them or say if any had been fired.

The report found no involvement by Wagner or other deans. Emory launched an internal investigation with help from an outside law firm and announced a series of new internal controls over data reporting.

“Emory has not been well-served by representatives of the university in this history of misreporting,” Wagner said. “I am deeply disappointed. Indeed, anyone who cares about Emory’s reputation for excellence in all things must regret this news.”