Claremont McKenna College, a prestigious liberal arts school in California, has admitted inflating the SAT scores of students in order to boost its standing in national school rankings.
A senior admissions official was caught falsifying and submitting exaggerated scores to the ranking service and to the government for the last six years. Though the official had added only 10 to 20 points to the average score, it still may have contributed to the high-ranking status of the school.
In a memo distributed to students, President Pamela B. Gann said, As an institution of higher education with a deep and consistent commitment to the integrity of all our academic activities, and particularly our reporting of institutional data, we take this situation very seriously.
Manipulating data in order to boost one's national status is not completely unheard of. In 2009, a staff member at Clemson University openly accused the school of artificially boosting faculty salary data, increasing the number of small classes and grading rival schools poorly in the ranking's peer reputation survey in order to boost its ranking. The methods had proved so successful that the university had gone from 38th to 22nd in seven years.
In a survey conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, 95.1 percent of its members believed that colleges either occasionally or consistently invest in strategies and policies to improve in the rankings.
The U.S. News & World Report college rankings have been widely criticized for the methods used to distribute status scores. As schools continually search for ways to increase their rankings and therefore increase their reputations, students have also felt the pressure of obtaining acceptance into a high-ranking school. This past November, 20 students were caught in an SAT cheating scandal after faculty at Great Neck North High School on Long Island heard rumors that they were paying others to take the test for them.