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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Claremont McKenna College inflates SAT scores

An admissions official for Claremont McKenna College (CMC) admitted to reporting false SAT Reasoning Test score statistics to increase the school’s place in national college rankings.

In a media statement released on Jan. 30, CMC stated the admissions official took full responsibility and resigned from the school.

“Claremont McKenna College has a deep and unwavering commitment to the integrity of its academic activities, including its academic reporting,” said CMC in its statement. “We were saddened and disappointed to learn of this matter.”

Currently, the college is engaged in legal counsel to prevent this type of conduct from happening again.

Kaplan Test Prep commented on the case, saying there have been other cases of schools inflating SAT scores to influence their rankings, but CMC’s is the most egregious.

“The reality is there are a number of ways schools have been able to influence their statistics around rankings,” said Jeff Olson, vice president of data science for Kaplan, in an e-mail.

“When a school goes SAT optional, it will offer legitimate reasons for doing so, but realistically, one effect of going SAT optional is that it boosts that school’s reported SAT scores. Another example might be if a school gets rid of its early admissions policy — this increases applicant volume, which makes it seem more selective and more competitive.”

Olson said the problem with rankings is that they’ve had a negative effect on colleges because it forces colleges to focus on statistics around perceived status.

“What rankings data can offer are certain statistics that give some insight around the edges as students research schools,” Olson said. “Ultimately, while rankings have been a traditional part of the college search narrative, they should really play a minimal role in the college applications process.”

Walter Robinson, UC Davis assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate admissions and recruitment, said he believes rankings are the forensics of the outcome of the year’s efforts, as well as a way schools can tailor their efforts to achieve an outcome that satisfies the criteria for rankings.

“I, for one, don’t have time to play the ranking game,” Robinson said. “There’s plenty of enough work to do. But there are some people who are very rank-conscious: parents, students and counselors.”

In response to CMC’s reporting of inflated SAT scores, Robinson said he thinks CMC is one of the last institutions that would need to resort to that type of conduct.

“Playing the college rankings game is a dangerous game to play,” Robinson said. “I think the reality of public universities is different than private universities.”

UC Davis saw an increase in its freshman admissions applications for the 2013-14 school year. In 2011, the school received 45,806 applications and for this cycle, 49,389 applications. Regarding transfer admission applications, there was a slight dip, with the school receiving 13,554 applications in 2011 and 13,126 applications this year.

“If you look at Davis and the transfer numbers, you’ll also see there was a decline in the number of applications across the entire University of California (UC) system,” Robinson said. “[UC Davis] did not see the same rate growth as the rest of the UC.”

According to Robinson, UC Davis saw an increase of 1.3 percent, which is the smallest increase of freshman applications in the UC system.

“It’s hard to attribute it to anything particular,” Robinson said. “I like to do the work that will produce the best possible outcomes, in terms of what the institution desires in the way of attracting certain types of students.”

Kaplan said the top echelon of schools hasn’t really changed over the past several decades and it’s been largely the same group of schools that has made up the top-15 list.

“There’s really no difference in quality when a student goes to the 22nd ranked school versus the 28th ranked school — it’s not something future employers are going to care about or remember.”

Robinson said he doesn’t believe UC Davis is as concerned with rankings.

“Where there’s excellence, where there’s access and how we remain affordable; that’s very challenging these days,” Robinson said.

CLAIRE TAN can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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