Tulane’s Freeman School of Business Fibbed to U.S. News

Barry Lenson

Tulane’s Freeman School of Business college rankingsThe good news is that Tulane University’s Freeman School was ranked 43rd in the 2013 U.S. News rankings of business schools. The bad news is that Tulane apparently earned that rank by submitting false data to the magazine.

According to a statement in U.S. News on December 20, 2012, Tulane lied by exaggerating the GMAT scores of its incoming students. To its credit, Tulane fessed up and admitted that it lied. But for protection, the school also hired a law firm that has represented other colleges and universities that have misreported data in the past.

By submitting false data, Tulane joins other well-respected schools that have done the same in order to earn higher rankings in U.S. News. According to an article on Huffington Post, other fabricators have included Claremont McKenna College, Emory University, and George Washington University. Those are all well-respected institutions too.

The story offers further proof that American colleges and universities are under absurd, unrealistic pressure to do whatever they can to climb higher in U.S. News’s rankings.  Is it really worth lying in order to climb up one position in the magazine’s rankings of colleges or business schools? Apparently it is.

The hunger to climb higher has forced colleges to behave in strange ways. Some send out mass mailings to get the maximum number of students to apply, and then reject nearly all of them. (If a school only admits a small percentage of applicants, that makes it appear more “selective.”) Some include foreign students in their number of “minority students” to appear more diverse – and therefore more appealing to minority applicants. Other schools under-report the number of students who drop out, so they can report higher retention rates. Others exaggerate the percentage of alumni who contribute. It goes on and on.

Schools don’t want to behave that way. They don’t want to lie. But they succumb to the pressure to do so.

What can we do to discourage lying and promote sanity in higher education? As the old saying goes, “Change starts with me.” So when you go shopping for a college or university, don’t pay a ton of attention to the ratings in U.S. News or anywhere else. After all, the #1 school is the one that is the best choice for you, not for anyone else. If you find it, you will have hit the mark. And that’s no lie.

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