George Washington University lost its coveted No. 51 spot on the U.S. News and World Report’s “Best Colleges” listing Wednesday because the school misreported data about its incoming freshman, according to The Washington Post. The school has been moved to the unranked list of colleges and will remain there until fall 2013, according to The Washington Post.
The data in question was the percentage of freshmen that graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. The university initially reported that number as 78 percent. The real number was 58 percent.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a university has reported false information to U.S. News. Earlier this year Emory University and Claremont McKenna College admitted to fabricating their numbers, according to The Washington Post. However, the discrepancy was not like GWU’s, and neither school saw a dramatic shift in its rankings.
Removing GWU from the ranking makes sense. The statistics GWU originally submitted were inaccurate and should lead to some sort of repercussion.
GWU’s removal might also have been U.S. News’ attempt to save face. There are a number of factors to consider when applying to colleges, but the magazine’s “Best Colleges” list is held up as one of the foremost predictors of what the best school is. Providing inaccurate data on one university might make the entire ranking seem less credible.
A number of high school students take rankings seriously. For some, it might even determine where they apply or attend school. Not only is that unethical for universities to inflate their data, but it is unfair to students who are trying to decide where to attend school. Students should be provided with accurate information so they can decide what schools are best for them.
Even if accurate data resulted in a lower ranking, universities should report honestly. Misreported data looks worse. Hopefully GWU and other schools realize this is and are encouraged to report accurate data in the future.