Kyle Smith is a chemical engineer who racked up nearly a decade of work experience at PPG Industries,Sika and BASF. When he wanted to get an MBA, he preferred to keep his full-time job as a senior project engineer for BASF in Iselin, N.J.
So last year he enrolled in what he thought was the No. 1 online MBA program in the U.S. at nearby Temple University’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia. Now, after U.S. News tossed Temple out of its latest online ranking for misreporting critical data, Smith appears to have some remorse about that decision.
He has filed a class action lawsuit against Temple, alleging that the school submitted false data to U.S. News to gain its No. 1 standing in that ranking for four consecutive years.
‘THE SCANDAL HAS RAISED GRAVE CONCERNS ABOUT THE INTEGRITY OF TEMPLE’S ADMINISTRATION
“The scandal has raised grave concerns about the integrity of Temple’s Administration and will have a long reaching negative impact on [the] school’s reputation, prestige and peer ratings,” according to the lawsuit.
Smith, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rowan University in 2007, says he enrolled in the Fox Online MBA program in the Spring 2017 because he wanted to be able to complete coursework on his own schedule while maintaining a full-time job. The Temple class action lawsuit asserts that most hiring managers have a “lack of enthusiasm for online MBA programs,” but understand that online courses from top programs are credible.
Smith filed the Temple University class action lawsuit on behalf of himself and a proposed Class of people who enrolled in Temple’s Fox School of Business and Management’s online MBA program since 2015. He asserts violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and is seeking injunctive relief, compensatory, consequential, and punitive damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. A university spokesperson said the school “intends to defend itself vigorously.”
‘TEMPLE’S NO. 1 RANKING PROVIDED SIGNIFICANT LEVERAGE TO ALLOW THE SCHOOL TO INCREASE ENROLLMENT’
Smith claims that Temple made it the top of U.S. News’ ranking only because the school misreported the number of students who had submitted GRE or GMAT scores with their applications. “Temple’s No.1 Online MBA ranking provided significant leverage to enable the school to increase enrollment in its online MBA offering,” the lawsuit states.“In fact, in 2017 alone, Temple was able to increase its online MBA enrollment by an impressive 57% to 546 students from 351, one of the largest percentage increases of any online MBA offering that year.” U.S. News penalizes online MBA programs if fewer than three-quarters of new entrants submit either a GMAT or GRE score, because the lack of data makes it unlikely that the standardized test scores are representative of the entire incoming class.
U.S. News removed the Fox School of Business off its newest ranking on Jan. 23 after finding out that the school misreported critical data on its program. Temple had reported that all 255 of the program’s latest incoming class submitted GMAT scores to get into the program with the average score being 619. In fact, the school acknowledged that only 50 students, or 19.6%, submitted GMAT scores. As a result, Temple’s online MBA program, ranked first in the nation by U.S. News, for four consecutive years, has been moved to unranked status for 2018.
“That score put Temple among the five online MBA programs with the highest test scores in U.S. News’ Top 50,” according to the lawsuit. “In truth and fact, the school acknowledged that only 50 students, or 19.6%, submitted GMAT scores, indicating that the reported average may have been significantly inflated.”
JONES DAY LAWYERS ARE CURRENTLY CONDUCTING AN INVESTIGATION AT FOX
Jones Day, the prominent law firm, is in the midst of a comprehensive review of the business school’s rankings data and processes after being called in by Temple University. The university also has since asked U.S. News to withdraw the school from its forthcoming rankings on full- and part-time MBA programs, potentially a signal that there could be problems with the data the school already submitted for those lists. Last year, Fox’s full-time MBA program moved up nine places to rank 32nd.
U.S. News kicked the No. 1 ranked online MBA program at Fox School of Business off its ranking for misreporting critical GMAT data used in its methodology. The school had initially 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.
EARLIER REVISIONS OF PREVIOUSLY REPORTED DATA ARE POSSIBLE
The review by Jones Day will look at previous years of reporting, all under a shadow because the school had reported that 100% of its students submitted GMAT scores for the previous three years. In penalizing Temple for the reporting error in its latest ranking, 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.
When Temple University President Richard M. Englert called in Jones Day for a review, he noted that “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.”
In a statement, Dean Porat had emphasized that the school had reported the error to U.S. News. “Once we discovered the error, we took the proactive approach to promptly correct a mistake. 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.”
Smith is represented by Jason Brown of JTB Law Group LLC in Jersey City, N.J., and Steven Bennett Blau of Blau Leonard Law Group LLC in Huntington, N.Y. In a statement, Brown said, “we look forward to litigating the matters raised in the complaint. Academic honesty is a two-way street. Just as students are accountable for candor and accuracy, schools must be held to the same standard.”