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That old college try? By inflating incoming students’ SAT scores, an official at Claremont McKenna steps over the line

Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, California.
Claremont McKenna College, in Claremont, California.
Campus Grotto/Flickr

College is competitive, and the pressure isn’t just on students. Claremont McKenna College, a private, liberal arts college in Claremont, California, made headlines when it announced yesterday that over the past six years a senior college official had inflated the SAT scores of its incoming students by an average of 10 to 20 points a subject. Not a drastic increase, but maybe just enough to help move the college into the top ten of the US News and World Report’s annual college rankings – Claremont McKenna placed 9th in the most recent survey.

This is not the first time a college has been found guilty of manipulating statistics in order to move up in rank; the same Los Angeles Times article refers to reports that the US Naval Academy counted incomplete applications to makes its selections process appear tougher, although the Academy denies any wrong-doing. At the level of hiring, professors with exceptional teaching records are often passed over in favor of mediocre professors who may have attended bigger universities, which earn their employer more points in the ranking system.


Do you have a child in college or preparing for college? How closely do you rely on ranking systems like the US News and World Report? If not this, what other data matters to you? How did you choose your own school?


Robert Morse, director of data research for US News and World Report

Ben Wildavsky, former education editor of U.S. News and World Report; he’s currently
a senior fellow in research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation and author of “The Great Brain Race: How Global Universities are Reshaping the World”

Bob Schaeffer, spokesman with FairTest, an advocacy group that supports alternatives to standardized testing