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Another University Admits Misreporting College-Ranking Data

Bucknell University is the latest school to admit it misrepresented information about the quality of the students it admitted, making it look more selective than it is.

In an Inside Higher Ed article today, Bucknell President John Bravman is quoted as saying he believed a single person was responsible for the false data, but no real explanation was offered as to why it happened.

The 3,500-student school in Lewisburg, Pa., failed to include the scores of about 32 students a year entering the university from 2006 to 2012, resulting in scores being reported higher than they were to various organizations that rank colleges, including U.S. News and World Report, according to a statement by Bravman Friday. Some ACT scores were also omitted in recent years.

Student performance on college-entrance exams are part of the formula used in determining a school's selectivity, which plays into how it is ranked on college lists, such as U.S. News Best Colleges. In the organization's 2013 ranking, Bucknell came in #32 in the National Liberal Arts category.

Bucknell joins four other colleges in recent months that admitted to misreporting admission data: Tulane University in New Orleans, George Washington University in Washington, Emory University in Atlanta, and Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif. Last Thursday, U.S. News announced that Tulane's business school would be listed as "unranked" as a result of providing incorrect information.

Earlier this month, U.S. News had a blog post maintaining that the recent ethical lapses were not part of a trend.

The error at Bucknell resulted in SAT scores being reported on average 16 points higher during those seven years than they actually were (on a 1600-point scale). Enrollment-management leadership no longer with the university provided the inaccurate numbers, the president wrote. Bravman characterized the inaccuracies as "relatively small," yet a violation of trust, and offered an apology for the episode. He did not anticipate the mistake would affect Bucknell's overall ranking.

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