Online Ranking Scandal At Temple Fox Could Worsen

Temple University’s Fox School of Business

After reporting that only one in four of its students had taken a GMAT to get into its online MBA program in 2013, Temple University’s Fox School of Business began claiming that the highly unlikely possibility that 100% of its students had taken the test for the next four years. The numbers—reported to U.S. News for its annual online MBA ranking—suggest that the school has been misrepresenting critical data to U.S. News for a number of years.

Only three days ago, on Jan. 24th, U.S. News tossed the school’s online MBA program off its ranking for misreporting critical GMAT data used in its methodology. As it has for the past four years in a row—all years in which Temple’s program had been ranked first—the school had reported that 100% of the students in the latest incoming class submitted GMAT scores to get into the program. In fact, the school acknowledged that only 19.6% submitted GMAT scores. Standardized test scores are a common and usually required part of admissions in graduate business education.

In penalizing Temple for the reporting error, U.S. News did not address the school’s previously reported data that allowed Fox’s online MBA program to attain its No. 1 ranking for what would have been four consecutive years. But administrators at other schools say it would have been improbable, if not impossible, for a school to go from 25% to 100% in a single year between 2013 and 2014, or for that matter, to go to 19.6% this past year from 100% a year earlier.

‘TO CLAIM 100% WHEN IT IS 19% WAS PRETTY RIDICULOUS’

Temple University President Richard M. Englert

“It just doesn’t make sense,” says an administrator at another school with an online MBA program. “To claim 100% when it is 19% was pretty ridiculous and irritating.”

Rival deans have long been suspicious of Temple’s claims that 100% of its students have taken the GMAT. That’s largely because the school says on its website it would waive the test for candidates who meet one of several conditions. If an applicant possesses “managerial-level experience,” he may not have to take the standardized test. Of if the candidate has an undergraduate degree from an AACSB-accredited college, he would may get around the GMAT requirement. Temple also said that applicants with at least seven years of work experience and a 3.0 undergraduate point average as well as those with a JD, an MD or a PhD would not be required to hand over a GMAT score.

Given all those ways to get out of submitting a standardized test score, administrators from other schools were incredulous that Temple could still report a 100% rate of compliance for four years in a row. It also seemed odd that although Temple tells applicants it accepts GRE exam results, the school consistently reported to U.S. News that not a single student entered with a GRE score from 2013 to 2017. Yet, GRE exams figure prominently in admissions at other online MBA programs. Last year, for example, 20% of the entering students in IU’s KelleyDirect program got in with GRE scores. At Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, 31% of the latest entering online MBA took the GRE.

Temple University President Richard M. Englert said Thursday the school would undertake an independent review of the data reporting processes for U.S. News rankings. Asked by Poets&Quants if the review would include earlier information supplied to U.S. News, a university spokesperson today confirmed it would. “That review will be comprehensive and will look at previous years as well as at the current year,” says Ray Betzner, associate vice president of strategic marketing and communications at Temple. “We’re in the process of hiring that outside independent reviewer now. The results of that review will go to the President and he will take appropriate action based on those results. That’s where we are.”

TEMPLE TOLD U.S. NEWS 100% OF NEW STUDENTS TOOK THE GMAT IN 2014, 2015 & 2016 AS WELL

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.

Temple’s No. 1 rankings, in turn, have also had a positive impact on another aspect of U.S. News’ ranking. U.S. News throws into its methodology the results of a survey of what it calls “high-ranking academic officials at MBA programs helps account for intangible factors affecting program quality that statistics do not capture.” This peer assessment portion of the ranking accounts for 25% of the overall weight. Given the school’s No. 1 ranking over several years, its peer assessment scores have gone higher and higher as well.

In 2013, Temple reported that only 12 of the 48 entrants into its online MBA program submitted a GMAT, with an average score of 619. None of the applicants, according to Temple, provided a GRE score. Only a year later, in 2014, however, Temple was reporting dramatically different numbers. The school said that every new student—70 in all—had submitted a GMAT score, with an average score of 638, higher than either the University of North Carolina’s 629 or Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business’ 620 for their online MBA programs.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.