In one of the more interesting stories to come out of the world of higher education in awhile, Villanova University Law School has admitted that it has been lying about the statistics of its incoming classes and other data for an unspecified number of years in order to boost its rankings in all-important guides like U.S. News & World Report.
The university has hired the Boston law firm of Ropes & Gray L.L.P to conduct an investigation after the discovery that certain people working at the school were systematically reporting inaccurate data to the American Bar Association.
The blogosphere has erupted with righteous indignation at the lack of integrity but here's the thing: Villanova deserves credit for coming clean about something that a huge number of other schools are probably doing too.
U.S. News and other publications that rate colleges base their rankings on self-reported, unaudited information provided by the schools being ranked. (And who would ever lie about something in order to get a huge boost in reputation when there's no chance of ever being caught?)
As I've written in the past, there is absolutely no evidence that attending a higher ranked college is associated with any sort of benefit at all. All Villanova has really done is make a mockery of something that was already a joke.
Consumers rely on these rankings at their own peril. Perhaps this naked emperor moment will encourage people to reconsider their obsession with empty prestige when it comes to education.
Zac Bissonnette's Debt-Free U: How I Paid For An Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, Or Mooching Off My Parents was called the "best and most troubling book ever about the college admissions process" by The Washington Post.
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