Emory U. Intentionally Misreported Admissions Data, Investigation Finds

Emory University intentionally misreported its admissions data for more than a decade, with the knowledge and participation of the leadership of the admission and institutional-research offices, the university announced on Friday. That was the key finding in a three-month internal investigation conducted with the help of Jones Day, a law firm.

While Emory strives to be an ethical place, “we are a human institution,” said James W. Wagner, the university’s president, at a news briefing. “We are not perfect.”

The misreported data—sent to U.S. News & World Report and other recipients, including the U.S. Education Department—were discovered in May by John F. Latting, the university’s new assistant vice provost for undergraduate enrollment and dean of admission, who informed the provost.

The investigation found that two former deans of admission and the leadership of the institutional-research office were involved in the misreporting. None of the responsible employees remain at Emory, said university officials, who declined to identify the employees. When a reporter asked during the briefing whether the person from institutional research had been fired or resigned, officials declined to specify.

There is no evidence that anyone in the provost’s, dean’s, or president’s offices knew about or encouraged the misreporting, the investigation found.

Some lower-level employees raised questions about how data were being reported, but no one acted as a whistle-blower, officials said. “There were a number of individuals who respected the lines of authority,” said Earl Lewis, the provost, during the briefing.

The university had reported the SAT and ACT scores of admitted students rather than enrolled ones—resulting in artificially inflated scores—since at least 2000, the investigation found. For example, Emory reported that its 25th- to 75th-percentile SAT scores for the 2010 cohort were 1310 to 1500, but they were actually 1270 to 1460. The university provides more of the misreported and corrected data here.

The investigation also found that Emory inflated data on the top decile, or the percent of incoming students who come from the top 10 percent of their high-school classes. For the 2010 cohort, the university said that 87 percent came from the top decile, but it was actually 75 percent.

Finally, the university may have excluded the bottom 10 percent of students from the figures it reported on grade-point averages, test scores, and the top decile for a time, though evidence suggests that did not happen after 2004, the investigation found.

The investigation was unable to determine how the misreporting began.

Emory has submitted corrected data to U.S. News, officials said, and is in the process of correcting its data with other recipients.

Brian Kelly, editor of U.S. News, criticized the misreporting by Emory and said that “we’ve always believed that honest data reporting is in everyone’s interest.”

“Our preliminary calculations,” he said in an e-mail, “show that the misreported data would not have changed the school’s ranking in the past two years (No. 20) and would likely have had a small to negligible effect in the several years prior. We will continue to review the matter.”

The university has released a plan to improve its data reporting and oversight, and to improve its culture of reporting in the wake of the missteps. That includes the creation of a university-wide “code book” for data reporting and an effort to encourage employees to make use of Emory’s “trust line”—a toll-free telephone number—if they raise concerns that go unaddressed in their departments.

In January a senior administrator at Claremont McKenna College resigned after reporting false SAT scores. Admissions experts shared their reactions to that incident here.

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