For more than two decades, SAT and ACT scores, along with other student statistics, have helped land Butler University on U.S. News and World Report’s list of best Midwest colleges.
More than 2,000 miles away from Butler, Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., acknowledged this month that a former admissions administrator had been falsifying SAT scores to earn a spot on a similar top ten list.
For five years, the official submitted fake SAT and ACT scores, which went unnoticed until the story broke nationally.
Questions are being raised about the validity of scores that thousands of universities nationwide, including Butler, submit each year.
Currently there are no laws directly dealing with misreporting test scores. This is a concern for the admissions department, said Tom Weede, vice president for enrollment management.
“I fear that the federal government will get involved and become heavy-handed,” he said. “We don’t need a one-size-fits-all law, but it needs to be a part of a school’s accreditation process.”
Score reporting at Butler is a two-step process, Weede said.
The academic office collects information, and then the office of institutional research is responsible for sending that data to agencies like U.S. News and World Report, Weede said.
He said that the university prevents potential misreporting of test scores by not allowing the admissions office to report the information itself.
“Admissions may benefit from inflated scores, but we’re garnered due to the fact that we do not directly report the scores,” Weede said.
The possibility of a situation like the Claremont McKenna incident is unlikely to occur at Butler, said Nandini Ramaswamy, director of the office of institutional research and assessment.
“We have three people working in our office to cross-check data,” Ramaswamy said. “We also collaborate with the registrar whenever questions are raised.”
Questions remain about how much of an impact rankings have on prospective students’ decisions.
Butler’s college ranking was a big factor in freshman Aaron Wentzlof’s decision to attend Butler.
“There’s only so much you can learn about a university from visiting it,” Wentzlof said. “Before you make a decision, you should research deeper and look at the university’s data and statistics.”
Freshman communication sciences and disorders major Sam Pfeil said even though there were schools ranked higher in her major, she ultimately chose Butler due to other factors after visiting the campus.
“I chose Butler because of the friendliness of people on campus, the small classroom size and the overall size of the school,” Pfeil said.
Freshman pharmacy major Steven Frankowski said the pharmacy program was the main reason he chose Butler, not its college ranking.
“Butler is close to home,” Frankowski said, “but the main reason I came here was because of the quality pharmacy program of the university.”
While college rankings help a university establish a reputation, students make decisions based on multiple factors, Weede said.
“It’s like Butler basketball,” Weede said. “It helps bring national attention to the university, but ultimately students make the decision to come here based on the programs we offer, our academics and location.”