Another College Fesses Up

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor reported an acceptance rate of 27.4 percent. It was really 89.1 percent.

May 15, 2013

U.S. News & World Report announced Tuesday that it was moving two more colleges to its "unranked" category because the institutions had submitted incorrect information. One of the colleges -- York College of Pennsylvania -- had previously announced its data inaccuracies. The other only became known because of the magazine's announcement.

The second institution is the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, which acknowledged submitting seriously inaccurate data on the number of applications it receives. According to a posting on the U.S. News site, the private university in Texas corrected data it had provided both on the number of applicants it had and the number of students admitted. Based on the original numbers submitted, the university admitted 27.4 percent of applicants. When the correct figures were substituted, the university's admission rate soars to 89.1 percent.

The acceptance rate counts for only 1.5 percent of the U.S. News formula for ranking colleges. But these figures were also reported elsewhere and a gap this large in acceptance rate effectively changes an institution from being competitive in admissions to being close to an open admissions institution.

James Stafford, a spokesman for Mary Hardin-Baylor, said that the university discovered the errors and reported them to the rankings operation at U.S. News. Stafford said that there was no "intentional effort to misrepresent the facts." Rather, he said that the university was counting its applications in a different way than U.S. News requires, apparently counting people who had started an application but never finished it.

In 2012, Claremont McKenna College, Emory University and George Washington University all admitted that they had submitted false data to U.S. News about undergraduate admissions, as did Tulane University's business school with regard to M.B.A. admissions. This year, such admissions have come from York, from Dominican University of California, and now from Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Much of the original reporting about false data was about SAT averages being inflated. But the Mary Hardin-Baylor case is not the first in which admission rates were misreported, and those rates have been significantly off.

In the case of Tulane's business school, the acceptance rate was reported as 57 percent when it was really 93 percent. And in the case of Dominican, a rate for undergraduate admissions that was reported as 54 percent was actually 73 percent.


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