We Faked Data, Admits Tulane B-School

by John A. Byrne on

Freeman Dean Ira Solomon

Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business said it inflated the average GMAT scores of its full-time-MBA students along with the number of applicants to its MBA program to U.S. News & World Report during the past two years.

The incorrect data was used by U.S. News to rank the Freeman School and likely resulted in a higher ranking than deserved. It is not the first time that a school deliberately inflated its reported numbers to achieve a better ranking. U.S. News ranked the school 43rd last year, up from 53rd a year earlier.

Among other things, the school’s position in U.S. News’ ranking was based on an average GMAT of its enrolled MBA class of 670 and that an acceptance rate of 56.7%. Tulane said it didn’t yet know what the correct numbers were or how significantly different they were from what was reported to the magazine for its ranking.

Freeman Dean Ira Solomon, an accounting professor who joined the school as dean in July of last year, said the problem was discovered when the school prepared to send information for its 2012 MBA program to U.S. News in December. “The data, including GMAT scores and the number of applications, skewed significantly lower than the previous two years,” Solomon said in a statement on Dec. 20. “Since the school’s standards and admissions criteria have not changed, this raised a concern that our data from previous years had been misreported.”

Solomon, who had specialized in external auditing as an accounting professor, added that the differences in the data were revealed because of new controls that the Freeman School leadership implemented this past academic year. “The university immediately engaged a third party firm to begin an audit of the data assembled for U.S. News,” Solomon added. “That audit is ongoing and should be completed by mid-January.”

Tulane told U.S. News that it had retained both Jones Day, a prominent law firm that has previously worked with at least one school that had misreported data, and Alvarez & Marsal, a professional services firm, to investigate what happened and to determine the accurate data. Tulane told U.S. News that the school intends to issue a detailed, public report in mid-January 2013.

U.S. News said it will study Tulane’s report with the correct data before any determination can accurately be made of what, if any, impact this will have on the Freeman School’s ranking.

“We deeply regret that this occurred,” added Solomon. “The checks and balances we have implemented will provide assurance that this will not happen again.”

Tulane also said that the average GMAT scores for full-time MBA students entering in fall 2012 and the total number of applicants—data recently submitted to U.S. News for the upcoming 2014 Best Business Schools rankings—had been independently verified by a third party prior to submission.

It is not the first time that a school was publicly admitted it submitted false information to U.S. News apparently to boost its MBA ranking. As Poets&Quants has frequently pointed out, school officials are often under pressure to report their numbers in the most favorable light.

U.S. News’ methodology puts significant weight on GMAT scores, some 16.25%, while a school’s acceptance weight has a much less significant 1.25% weight. But small changes in the data can loom large in a ranking because the underlying ranking scores are often closely clustered together.

Poets&Quants’ recently ranked the Freeman School 61st among the top full-time MBA programs in the U.S.

DON’T MISS: U.S. NEWS’ HISTORICAL MBA RANKINGS or NEW YORKER WRITER MALCOLM GLADWELL TRASHES U.S. NEWS RANKING

  • O

    Who cares? Yes, it’s bad to be dishonest, but 61st in the world? I mean, really, who cares? Is this a witch hunt or something? Do you expect others to sit in front of their computers and chime in “off with their heads?” The majority of this site’s front page and “smackdown” content is focused on Top 5 business schools anyway, until number 61 does something juicy you can plaster all over the front. The MBA game in the United States is such an asss-kissing, minority-skewed, money-machine of an industry. This was dishonest, yes, but I’m sure the whole thing is rampant with dishonesty and disingenuity. If you haven’t been bred to be an automaton, or if you aren’t a minority female (another elephant-in-the-room of a differentiator that this site really should address but instead tries to downplay – Minority Consortium? Separate application perks and reduced fees? I mean, come on! We all know and silently admit it’s blatant discrimination against whites.) – anyway, if you aren’t one of these things the whole American MBA game/machine is difficult to penetrate and looks quite silly from the outside. Yes, Tulane was wrong to lie, but there’s something that also seems disingenuous and one-sided about you plastering this story at the front of your page as if Tulane suddenly mattered to you and as if we should all grab our pitchforks and our gasoline jugs and scream “Burn them at the stake!”

  • guest

    In a comparable case, George Washington reported incorrect data (SAT, class rank) for its undergraduate admission over years. The responsible dean had to leave and as a result, USNews unranked George Washington from its ranking. Tulane violated data integrity and shouldn’t get away. Some B-School adcoms really need a refresher on ethics.

  • highwyre237

    I think a big part of this site, and pretty much the reason it began, is to shed light on just how flawed B-school ranking systems are… This article simply pealed back another layer of the onion…
    I’m not going to bother to touch the unrelated rant after your initial complaint…

  • RealAssetsFTW

    O, it’s really nice to see someone speak out against the discrimination that caucasians face in getting into b-school (not trolling). Everyone can agree that a minority female 730 is a lock at H/S/W, yet a white male with the same background isn’t even guaranteed an interview. Hopefully, in the next 10 years we will see this trend change towards a focus on professional diversity rather than skin color or gender.

  • gray area

    As an HYP hispanic with a stellar GMAT and GPA, I can assure you that minorities are hardly a ‘lock’ for top schools – I’ve been denied admission to nearly all of them. No interviews. My friends who got in- primarily white males. Why? They were all great candidates and their stories demonstrated a logical progression toward business school.

    Frankly, I was probably over-confident in the beginning that my minority status would help me get in. I assumed the ‘lock’ just like you. But I realize now it’s more complicated than that. It’s not some kind of golden ticket.

  • gray area

    And to “O”: the schools are hardly ‘minority-skewed’. Yes, I know they look that way in view booklets and in the ‘current students’ sections of school websites, but after visiting about a dozen campuses and sitting in on classes, I can assure you they’re predominantly white and asian.

  • disqus_VpevPoC8Yu

    If that’s what you’re looking at for discrimination then Asians have it worse. I know an Indian guy with a 780 that didn’t get an interview at H.

  • gray area

    Yeah, absolutely. NYTimes had a good article on this a few weeks ago. A meritocratic ‘test-only’ approach would most likely yield classes that were nearly all indian and asian.

  • ITGuy

    The preference for minority women does not end with admission alone. Adcoms and FinAid office allocate more grants to priority groups with all stats being equal. This continues with various initiatives whereas there is little funding left for Caucasian male. The group with the toughest requirements are Asian males.

  • km80

    Again, when will (some) Indians learn its more than the GMAT score. Indians are so focused on just one aspect of the application that they lag behind in almost every other quarter. If you lived in your moms basement, coded and scored a 800 you’d still not get in. At my B school guess which demographic went around asking people GMAT score on day 1? That was easy

  • truth2013

    While the GMAT is important, the business world isn’t just about taking and passing tests. The ability to influence in negotiate is far more of a predictor of actual business success than GMAT problems.

  • truth2013

    cultural diversity is a part of cultural diversity. Additionally, many of those “white males” have been being prepped for the GMAT and bschool applications since undergrad (at HYP or similar) and right into MBB prior to business school. They’ve also often invested in pricey GMAT coaching classes. This is no more a meritocracy from their end than it is from that of minority females. When that same group made up 90%+ of every H/S/W class, I’m sure they thought it was all because of “merit”. Right.

  • truth2013

    LOL @ blatant discrimination against whites. And when George Bush Sr and Mitt Romney’s dumb kids went to HBS against, where was the merit in that? Or folks who had more support or came from privileged backgrounds at Exeter and Andover? Or folks who got to click the “My dad/mom/granny went to HBS/Stanford” box on those apps? I supposed that all of that is TOTALLY fair and equitable, right?

  • CH3DD

    Fair point. We Indians need to focus more on being well rounded and less on exams and stats. I hope my fellow Indians take this comment in the right spirit.

  • CH3DD

    Ranked 61? What’s the point of all this cheating? The only people that really lose in this situation are the honest students who applied to the program in good faith. Hopefully, they will be able to get good jobs without this stigma attached. Good luck Tulane – we all make mistakes. But admitting as much and getting back to the basics are important.

  • Jody

    It is like the Olympics or cycling, there are allot of Lance Armstrong type programs that manipulate their data. The Financial Times ranking is madness and salary based and programs just have their grads outright inflate their salary. An example, the Australian Graduate School of Management actually has a group that gets together to decide what to put, it is alums and even one finance professor at UBC who is an alum. Della Bradshaw is full aware of all the cheating but does not care, it is all about advertising. Most UK programs just outrageously inflate.

  • Truth.com

    This really got 5 votes up, and 2 votes down. Posts like this always show me just how little emotional intelligence some people have, and just how many people don’t understand the world around them, or act like they don’t.

    A few questions: What percentage of ‘front office’ positions in finance are held by white males? What percentage of C-suite executives in industry are white males? What percentage of America’s wealth is held by whites? If we made everything based on merit, would white males get into these schools, or would internationals from all over the world take those seats? What is the overwhelming demographic in neighborhoods with the best schools? Will whites share the wealth without being mandated to do so? Are some of these social ills why we need Affirmative Action? How much wealth was generated by American Slavery and how much was/is kept in white hands through discrimination, segregation, and socio-economic policies like gentrification and criminalization? When will we move that money around? Final question, who is the biggest benefactor of ‘Affirmative Action’?–That one I’ll answer–White Women.

    You do realize that the world is becoming more and more non-white right? And no matter how much you complain you need to get on that boat if you want to be successful moving forward…

    I love how some of you address issues piecemeal… Yeah, letting a few brown kids into entry level MBA positions is really turning the American machine upside down…

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