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Education Reporter Says NJ Colleges Inflate SAT Scores

4-6-12

It recently came to light that Rowan University reported incorrect numbers for its SAT scores. The Record did an analysis of several other colleges in the state and found that they inflated their reported scores as well. Leslie Brody, senior education reporter for the newspaper, sat down with NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider to discuss the findings.

The report says Ramapo College inflated scores by 52 points, New Jersey City University by 41 points, William Paterson University by 45 points and Rowan by 100 points, which that institution attributed to clerical errors.

Brody said it’s hard to know if the problems are prevalent at most universities. “These are the ones that we checked. There are many out there we didn’t check,” she said. “It obviously didn’t take too long to find these discrepancies.”

She explained that schools can exclude students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and applied through the Equal Opportunity Fund as well as those who are admitted through an arts interest. That reporting strategy is called regular admits, which the schools in the report used.

Brody said that U.S. News and World Report, which ranks colleges and universities, uses an asterisk in its print edition to let readers know the school submitted regular admits only. She explained that the asterisk doesn’t exist in the online version, however.

U.S. News says that it tries to factor in for the universities that only give them regular admits and they knock them down a few pegs for that, but it’s hard to know,” Brody said. “There are so many different categories in this ranking.”

Brody said the fact that many high schools don’t rank their students makes ranking colleges more difficult because one topic asks how many freshmen were in the top 25 percent of their high school class.

“So you’re comparing a lot of apples to coconuts to blackberries if different schools have different accounting systems and U.S. News is coming up with its own methodologies,” Brody said. “There are about nine different footnotes for different kinds of categories of reporting in the rankings and I don’t know how many people really bother to read the fine print.”

The competitive nature of higher learning could be the reason why schools use regular admits reporting to make the average SAT scores seem higher than they are, according to Brody.

“The whole college world is very competitive,” she said. “The students compete really hard to get in and then the universities compete very hard to get the best students so they look as good as possible.”

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