Emory: No need to review grad school data

Emory University has no plans to audit the data used to rate its graduate programs, even though leaders recently revealed the college submitted inflated undergraduate admissions data used by rankings publications.

College officials also refused to release the investigative report about the inflated data. As a private university Emory doesn't have to share the report, but Claremont McKenna College, another private college caught in a similar scandal, posted its findings online.

"I'm puzzled they didn't release the report," said Brian Kelly, U.S. News & World Report Editor and Chief Content Officer. "If I'm a consumer, I'm suspicious."

U.S. News is one of several publications that received Emory's incorrect information. It didn't affect Emory's No. 20 ranking, he said.

Still, Kelly questioned why Emory doesn't take the initiative and review its graduate programs. Various publications rank law, business and medical schools.

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Emory reported SAT and ACT data for admitted students instead of enrolled students, which inflated the school's test scores. The college also overstated the class rankings of incoming students.

The university's new undergraduate dean of admissions noticed the data discrepancy in May, which triggered an internal investigation. The university disclosed the findings - though not the details behind them - earlier this month. Those responsible no longer work at Emory and new controls are being put in place, officials said.

"These reporting issues concerned only undergraduate students," spokeswoman Nancy Seideman said in an email. "Emory's graduate and professional programs utilize separate admissions offices and procedures, and these findings in no way relate to data concerning graduate and professional admissions."

More than a position in a ranking, the concerns are rooted in integrity, said Lloyd Thacker, director of the Education Conservancy, which works to reduce competitive pressures in admissions.

Emory can demonstrate true leadership by being honest and open as questions are asked, Thacker said. Emory's vision statements stress being "ethically engaged."

"How consistent are their actions with what they purport to instill in their kids?" Thacker asked. "That's a measure of integrity. In my eyes they could do a much better job."

When Emory President Jim Wagner disclosed the data problems, he said "trust is a vital currency" and that it's essential for students and the public to trust the university.

Seideman declined to comment any further on the findings of the internal review.

While national observers have criticized Emory, the president of the Georgia Research Alliance is reluctant to do the same.

The alliance helps recruit world-renowned scientists to Emory and the state's other research institutions. Emory is a "powerhouse" and an integral part of Georgia's research enterprise, said its president Michael Cassidy.

"We certainly believe in and are in favor of transparency to the greatest extent possible," he said. "But I would not second-guess them."

Others have. Businessweek grades business schools and has ranked Emory's Goizueta Business School among the top five for the past two years.

The publication was concerned about Emory's data and contacted school administrators for assurances, the magazine said last week in an article on its website. After receiving additional information, the publication said the school remains in good standing.

Kelly, of U.S. News, said Emory is among several colleges that have had problems with law school rankings, particularly in the area of employment rates for graduates.

When U.S. News released law school rankings in March 2011 Emory dropped eight places to No. 30. The school rebounded to No. 24 this year when there were several big jumps.

When Emory dropped to 30, law school leaders blamed the decline on ranking methodology changes, even though similarly ranked schools didn't have steep declines. U.S. News said new calculations provided a more accurate reflection of graduates' employment.

Law schools at Villanova University and University of Illinois have been censured by the American Bar Association for intentionally publishing false data about its students. The ABA also fined Illinois $250,000.

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