Administrators who oversee the publication of Mills’ facts and statistics were shocked by the most recent in a series of disclosures that college officials nationwide had falsified the SAT scores of their admitted students.
Last month, Bucknell College in Pennsylvania said it had inflated the SAT scores of its incoming freshman for seven years in a row. The college voluntarily disclosed the fact of their false data to the U.S. News and World Report, which provides an annual ranking of colleges. It was the fifth such disclosure from colleges within the last year about manipulation of data that affected their ranking. Other colleges that have acknowledged data fabrication include Claremont McKenna, Tulane, George Washington University, and Emory.
Dr. Alice B. Knudsen, the Director of the Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Academic Assessment at Mills, who said her data comes from the Admissions Office, was adamant that Mills would never fabricate data. Giuletta Aquino, the Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, said in an email that she also stands by the data Mills publishes.
Knudsen said the response of her office and others was a “collective gasp” when they heard about yet another college falsifying data.
“I will tell you, we have always reported accurate data,” Knudsen said. “But this situation really makes you realize that even though there are no formal external audits, you cannot be blasé about the information or the process.”
The Washington Post reported that it was unclear why the problem at Bucknell occurred, and an official statement posted to the Bucknell website mirrored this lack of clarity.
“We can’t discern people’s intentions, but at a minimum the inaccurate numbers show an inexplicable inattention to the accuracy and completeness of data,” the statement said.
Bucknell ranks 32nd on the most recent US News list and it is not clear if that ranking will be affected by the problems
with SAT scores.
Bloomberg Business Week reported that Emory College issued a statement in August 2012, saying it had intentionally misreported data on SAT, ACT and class rankings since 2000.
The Huffington Post reported that two unidentified former Emory Admissions Deans and the leadership of its institutional research office were aware of the practices. Emory was ranked 20th in the publication America’s Best Colleges.
Inside Higher Education reported that the false data at George Washington University was discovered over the summer of 2012 by the school’s new provost while reorganizing admissions processes. George Washington now mandates that the University’s Office of Academic Planning and Assessment, not admissions, will handle requests for data from the organizations that rank colleges.
The Washington Post reported in early December 2012 that Tulane noticed sharp drops in test scores for admission, as well as a decrease in number of applications to their business school. Tulane University said the evidence pointed to a former business school employee.
“It was a goal oriented manipulation,” Tulane’s provost told The Washington Post.
Tulane is now unranked.
Like Tulane, Bucknell said the could be episode traced back to the actions of a former employee.
“It was like getting emotionally punched in the gut,” Bucknell President John Bravman told the Washington Post.
Brouman explained that new controls put in place will keep the problem from reoccurring.
Claremont McKenna came forward one year before Bucknell College, admitting to the fabrication of SAT scores. The Huffington Post covered the resignation of the senior administrator at Claremont McKenna College in late January 2012. The final report explained that the data misrepresentations came from a disagreement with the President about the school’s admissions strategy.
But Mills sticks by its accountability.
“We believe in transparency,” Knudsen said. “This is who we are.”