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MBA Programs

Misreported Rankings Data May Cost Tulane Applications

Giving inflated GMAT scores and application figures to rankings
publications could lead to a drop in applications

Photograph by Jon Boyes

Giving inflated GMAT scores and application figures to rankings publications could lead to a drop in applications

Tulane University’s MBA program may see a dent in its applicant pool after misreporting admissions data, based on patterns at two other graduate schools.

In 2011 the law schools at the University of Illinois and Villanova University disclosed that they had given inflated LSAT scores to the American Bar Association and U.S. News & World Report’s rankings system.

Applications fell 42.3 percent at Illinois and 37.6 percent at Villanova from fall 2010 to fall 2012. That compares with a drop of 22.3 percent over the same period at law schools overall, according to the Law School Admissions Council, which collects the information from about 200 schools each year.

That pattern does not bode well for Tulane’s Freeman School of Business, which recently disclosed it had given inflated GMAT scores and application figures to rankings publications, including Bloomberg Businessweek. In January, U.S. News revoked the ranking it had given the school. Freeman is not currently ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek. The disclosure comes at a time when many top MBA programs are seeing application declines.

Freeman was one of five schools—but the only business school—that last year admitted misreporting rankings data to U.S. News, in some cases for many years. It has maintained that a “single business school employee” falsified the data and submitted it to the magazine. The school has not identified the employee, who is no longer working at Freeman.

John Pryor, managing director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, says the trends seen at Villanova and Illinois are “indicative” of what may happen at Tulane. He notes that any effect such disclosures may have would be greater at graduate schools than at undergraduate colleges because prospective graduate students tend to be more informed consumers.

Tulane doesn’t anticipate a lasting fallout. ”If there is any drop in applications to the Freeman School, we believe it will only be temporary,” university spokesman Mike Strecker wrote in an e-mail. “The discovery that one individual submitted falsified data does not impact the fundamental strength of the school.”

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Zlomek is a reporter for Bloomberg News in New York.

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