Temple University’s Fox School of Business began this year the way any school with an online MBA program would want to: by securing its fourth straight year as the top-ranked program in U.S. News’s Online MBA Rankings.
As it turned out, though, Temple’s first-place finish was only the first chapter in a more complicated story. Later in January, U.S. News announced that it was retracting Temple’s gold medal and moving the program to its “Unranked” category.
The reason? Temple had misreported data to U.S. News. While the school claimed that 100 percent of online MBA applicants submitted GMAT scores, it turned out that only 19.6 percent had.
Being found reporting false data isn’t the kind of thing a school just moves on from without figuring what went wrong. So Temple commissioned a law firm to complete a study of the online MBA rankings debacle.
As of this week, the results of that study are out, and they’re not pretty.
First, it turns out that the incorrect GMAT data reported to U.S. News was not an innocent one-time blunder.
In an announcement, Temple president Richard Englert revealed the report’s finding that the Fox School of Business “knowingly provided false information to at least one rankings organization about the Online MBA.”
This false information included incorrect data on the number of GMAT takers not just for 2018, but for 2015, 2016 and 2017 as well. In other words, for each of the four consecutive years that Temple was the top-ranked online MBA program.
Beyond that, the school misrepresented students’ undergraduate GPAs as well as the number of admissions offers made. And the school understated how much debt students in its online MBA program were taking on.
Temple puts responsibility for this pattern squarely at the feet of the Fox School’s dean, Moshe Porat, who was asked to step down when the results of the report were released.
For example, Englert writes that “it was the dean’s initiative to disband a longstanding committee charged with ensuring the accuracy of rankings data.” In combination with “undue focus on rankings,” the report highlights this decision as especially problematic.
Englert says that the school will immediately begin looking for a new dean. We can only hope that new leadership, together with the school’s transparency about the contents of the report, leads to a shift in culture.
For applicants, these events highlight the dangers of relying too much on rankings data in building an admissions strategy.