Claremont McKenna admits to bloating SAT scores

Adriene Hill Jan 31, 2012

Adriene Hill: California-based liberal arts college Claremont McKenna says a school official cheated on the SATs. Not the test taking — but the test reporting. The admissions official inflated the SAT Scores that it sent out to places like U.S. News and World Report, which ranks colleges.

For more, we go to Evan Hoover with the Chronicle of Higher Education. Good morning.

Eric Hoover: Good morning.

Hill: So what do we know about what happened at Claremont McKenna?

Hoover: Well, what we know so far is a senior administrator in the office of admissions there since 2005 had been misreporting — and that is to say artificially inflating — SAT scores that are reported to various agencies and also to U.S. News where plenty of parents and students would see it. Last night I heard from U.S. News and they said they had asked for more detail data from the college. And at least as of last night, they did not yet have that. So it would be too soon to tell how or if this might affect the ranking of this college.

Hill: Now, why would a school like Claremont McKenna want to inflate its numbers like this?

Hoover: I can only speculate, but I’m happy to guess. As in, say, blind dating, right? You meet someone, appearances matter. The same is true of colleges and universities. We can love it we can hate it, but SAT scores matter to many people. And the inflated score may seem strange, it may seem illogical, but it may stem from a very real sense of needing to make the college look better or preserve its place in the pecking order of colleges.

Hill: So are these school rankings too important?

Hoover: Yeah, I think you would find many many people in higher ed that would say that, just as you would find people who would say the SAT score is too important. But I think it’s important to look just beyond the rankings. Rankings speak to external audiences — that is perspective students and their parents. But these scores — before you even get to U.S. News — these scores matter a great deal in general to folks who work on college campuses — that is professors, presidents, administrators and certainly trustees that run colleges. And as one long time admissions officer told me: If you’re interested in long-term employment, those numbers can never go down.

Hill: Eric Hoover is with the Chronicle of Higher Education. Thanks.

Hoover: Thanks Adriene for having me.

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