GWU Says It Inflated Ranking of Incoming Freshmen

George Washington University, founded by Congress in 1821, said it misstated class rankings for incoming freshmen because of a data collection error.

Fifty-eight percent of students in the class of 2015 were in the top 10 percent of their high school class, rather than the 78 percent previously reported, the Washington-based university said yesterday in a statement on its website.

“I deeply regret this error and want to assure you that corrective action has been taken and safeguards put into place to prevent such errors from occurring in the future,” President Steven Knapp said in the statement.

The information was furnished to U.S. News & World Report, which compiles college rankings that high-school students and their parents use to comparison shop. The magazine ranked George Washington 51st in its 2013 list of national universities, tied with Boston University and Tulane University.

George Washington is at least the third selective school this year to misreport information used in rankings. In August, Atlanta-based Emory University said former admissions officials and other employees had intentionally reported inflated student entrance-exam scores and high school class ranks for more than a decade. In January, Claremont McKenna College, near Los Angeles, said a school official had misrepresented SAT statistics since 2005.

“We’re encouraged to see that schools are taking seriously their responsibility to provide students and parents with accurate information,” Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News, said in an e-mail. “The minor advantages that a few schools have tried to gain damage the credibility of the whole system, as well as their own reputations. The best colleges know that accuracy matters.”

Any ranking change for George Washington for the current year wouldn’t be significant, Kelly estimated.

George Washington Provost Steven Lerman, who had reorganized the undergraduate enrollment management functions during the summer, uncovered a flaw in the method used to determine class rankings, the university said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Staiti in Boston at cstaiti@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lisa Wolfson at lwolfson@bloomberg.net

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