Jones has been a popular speaker on the college admissions circuit, where she urged parents not to press their kids too hard and told students there are more important things than getting into the most prestigious colleges. She rewrote MIT's application, trying to get students to reveal more about their personalities and passions while de-emphasizing lists of their accomplishments.
But Jones, dean since 1997, issued a statement saying she had misrepresented her credentials when she first came to work at MIT 28 years ago and "did not have the courage to correct my resume when I applied for my current job or at any time since.
"I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the MIT community and beyond who supported me, believed in me, and who have given me extraordinary opportunities," she said, adding she would have no further comment.
MIT Chancellor Phil Clay said in a telephone interview that another MIT dean had received a phone call questioning Jones' credentials, prompting an inquiry that took several days. It found that Jones had claimed at various points to have degrees from Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Albany Medical College, but in fact had no degrees from any of those institutions. Clay said MIT was not aware of Jones having any undergraduate or graduate degree.
"She has said at different times she has gotten degrees from those places," Patti Richards, an MIT spokesperson, told CBS News. "When people here investigated whether that was the fact, it came out that she hadn't been so truthful."
"It's definitely safe to say in the future we'll take lessons from this experience," added Richards
Jason Gorss, a spokesman for RPI, said Jones attended that university as a part-time, non-matriculating student from September 1974 until June 1975 but did not receive a degree. Officials at the other two schools said she had never been a student there.
"It goes against the level of integrity and her being a model for integrity that an admissions director sets," Clay said. "It represents a very long deception when there were opportunities to correct the record. This is not a mistake or an oversight."
Jones stuck out on the MIT campus with her shock of red hair and blunt talk, and she attracted attention with her campaign to reduce the pressure on college applicants from the bully pulpit of a campus famous for its overachievers. She is the co-author of a 2006 book "Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond."
"We're raising a generation of kids trained to please adults," Jones told The Associated Press in a profile published last year. "Every day kids should have time when they're doing something where they're not being judged. That's the big difference with this generation. They're being judged and graded and analyzed and assessed at every turn. It's too much pressure for them."
Lloyd Thacker, founder of The Education Conservancy, a group that is also trying to tone down admissions anxiety, said he was saddened by the announcement.
"She's had a positive impact in the lives of many students and families and has brought inspiration to the profession," Thacker said. "What's happened in no ways discredits the value of her work and her unwavering commitment to helping students, and I sincerely hope she's able to continue with that cause."