Columbia University admitted to using “outdated and/or incorrect methodologies” when submitting information to US News & World Report for the publication’s 2021 college rankings.
The Ivy League university expressed regret for the error discovered by math professor Michael Thaddeus, who questioned the school’s surge in the rankings from 18th when it first appeared in 1988 to second in 2021.
Thaddeus published a harsh critique of the university’s data reporting and the rankings themselves in February, followed by an update in March.
Thaddeus looked into the US News ranking system and the university’s professors, enrollment, class sizes, and finances from publicly available sources. He discovered alarming disparities between the university’s claims and the correct statistics.
At Columbia, the criticism sparked an internal investigation.
It worked to address the professor’s concerns regarding the information provided to the publication about faculty, class sizes, and other issues.
Columbia is not the only institution to admit to disclosing inaccurate data to publications.
In 2012, Claremont McKenna College said it had published various admissions data incorrectly. The same year, George Washington University and Emory University identified similar issues.
Columbia Provost Mary Boyce told CNN that the university “will continue to refine and review” its data reporting methodologies, adding however that “aspects of a Columbia education cannot be measured by common denominator-style metrics.”