A mere two days before U.S. News yanked Temple University’s Fox School of Business from its ranking of online MBA programs, the dean of the school sent out a promotional email touting the school’s fourth consecutive No. 1 ranking on the annual list.
Under the subject header, “#1 Online MBA and #2 Online BBA In The Nation AGAIN!,” Dean M. Moshe Porat boasted about the school’s latest victories in the U.S. News ranking. “It may be a new year, but at the Fox School of Business, some things haven’t changed. For the fourth straight year, the Fox Online MBA ranks #1 in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report, 2018. In the same report, the Fox Online Bachelor of Business Administration ranks #2 in the nation for the second year in a row. With these stellar rankings, we’re proving that the future of business education is forged by Fox.” What’s more, the new rankings occurred in what is the school’s centennial anniversary.
The early afternoon email blast from the dean on Jan. 22 was widely distributed exactly two days before U.S. News announced on Jan. 24 that it had tossed the school’s online MBA program off its ranking for misreporting critical GMAT data used in its methodology. Temple had reported that all 255 of the program’s latest incoming class submitted GMAT scores to get into the program, with an average GMAT score of 619. That score put Temple among the five online MBA programs with the highest test scores in U.S. News’ Top 50. In fact, the school acknowledged that only 50 students, or 19.6%, submitted GMAT scores, indicating that the reported average may have been significantly inflated. Standardized test scores are a common and usually required part of admissions in graduate business education.
AN INDEPENDENT REVIEW OF WHAT WENT WRONG IS UNDERWAY
Since the news broke, Temple University President Richard M. Englert said the school would undertake an independent review of the data reporting processes for U.S. News rankings. “The integrity of our data and reporting are paramount. After consultation with Provost JoAnne Epps and Fox School of Business Dean Moshe Porat, I have decided to bring in an outside independent analyst to review our data reporting processes, including what occurred in this instance,” said Englert. “The Fox School takes great pride in making ethics a part of every program. We need to assure our students and alumni that we practice what we teach.”
To be fair, it was Fox officials who reported the error to U.S. News after the Jan. 8th publication of the online MBA ranking. When Dean Porat sent his email about the rankings out, he apparently was unaware that the ranking was based on faulty data. “Once we discovered the error, we took the proactive approach to promptly correct a mistake,” said Porat in a statement. “We accept the U.S. News & World Report decision to revise the 2018 ranking,” he said. “We are doubling efforts to verify our data before it is submitted for rankings purposes, and we have every expectation that the Fox Online MBA program will return to its rightful place among the nation’s top programs of its kind in 2019 and beyond. Rankings are a byproduct of quality, and our focus will remain where it always has—on delivering high-quality programs and service to our students.”
Temple has smartly leveraged its No. 1 U.S. News rankings to significantly expand enrollment in the online MBA program which has a price tag of $59,760. In fact, in the past year alone, Temple was able to increase student enrollment by an impressive 57% to 546 students from 351, one of the largest percentage increases of any online MBA offering last year. Only two other highly ranked programs did better: The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business boosted enrollment by 151% to 369 students from only 147 a year ago. The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School reported a 78% jump in enrollment to 1,862 students from 1,047 a year earlier.
U.S. NEWS PENALIZES SCHOOLS WHERE FEWER THAN 25% SUBMIT A GMAT OR GRE SCORE
U.S. News said it was contacted by the Fox School shortly after the release of its 2018 online rankings. That appears to be odd timing given the dean’s email blast. Asked for details on how and when the school discovered the error, a spokesperson offered no new information. “We decline comment at this time, as the matter is under review. We look forward to sharing more information once the review is complete,” said Christopher A. Vito, associate director of communications.
When the school contacted U.S. News, Fox officials explained that it had misrepresented the GMAT data. “The business school significantly overstated the number of new entrants for its 2016-2017 entering class who submitted GMAT scores,” said Robert Morse, chief data strategist for U.S. News. “The misreported data resulted in the school’s numerical rank being higher than it otherwise would have been in the overall Best Online MBA Programs rankings and the Best Online MBA Programs for Veterans rankings.”
U.S. News’ methodology penalizes online MBA programs in its rankings if less than 75% of new entrants submit either a GMAT or GRE score. U.S. News says that is because the lack of data for 25% of students or more “likely means the standardized test score is not representative of the entire class.” Standardized test scores, of course, are also a sign of the quality of a school’s class. Not requiring the test for admission signals that the overall quality of an incoming class could be suspect. These scores have a weight of 10% in U.S. News’ rankings formula.
While all this is embarrassing news for Temple, it’s good news for at least two other schools that are now effectively tied for first place in U.S. News’ online MBA ranking. Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business and Indiana University’s Kelley School, previously tied for second, now share top honors on the U.S. News list of best online MBA programs. At Carnegie Mellon, 100% of the incoming class had taken standardized tests. At Indiana’s KelleyDirect program, some 82% of the students reported a GMAT or GRE score. The cost between those two top online offerings is massive: The Tepper program boasts the highest price tag of any online MBA offering in the world at $128,000. IU’s KelleyDirect program is priced at nearly half that cost at $67,830.