U.S. News & World Report has had to adjust its popular lists of best colleges because at least five schools admitted to misreporting statistics. One of those schools, University of California–Berkeley, was knocked out of the No. 2 spot on the Top Public School list.
UC Berkeley, Scripps College, Mars Hill University, the University of North Carolina–Pembroke and Johnson & Wales University all misreported statistics, resulting in their rankings being higher than they should have been, U.S. News said. The five schools have now been moved to an "unranked" category.
U.S. News said the schools will keep this "unranked" status until the publication of next year's Best Colleges list, if the schools confirm the accuracy of their data submission.
For now, all other schools' rankings in the 2019 Best Colleges remain the same. So, on the list of top public schools, UCLA is first, then comes University of Virginia in third place and University of Michigan–Ann Arbor in fourth place. Second place, where UC Berkeley used to be, is skipped.
The five schools in question submitted the incorrect data during the spring and summer 2018 data collection period, for the 2019 list. They notified U.S. News & World Report about the misrepresentations during the 2020 data collection period this year.
"Misreporting is rare, and U.S. News takes misreporting very seriously," the publication wrote. "In addition to the rankings, U.S. News publishes data provided by schools in order to assist consumers as they evaluate their education options."
The publication relies on schools to accurately report data and says it checks this data in a number of ways. Year-over-year discrepancies, and comparisons to federal government sources, are two ways it may verify data. However, these schools were still able to submit incorrect data — some of them for multiple years.
The UC Berkeley originally reported that its two-year average alumni giving rate for fiscal years 2017 and 2016 was 11.6%, U.S. News said. The school recently told U.S. News the correct average alumni giving rate for just fiscal year 2016 was 7.9%. The school incorrectly overstated its alumni giving data to U.S. News since at least 2014. The alumni giving rate accounts for 5% of the Best Colleges ranking.
U.S. News does not consider pledges in alumni giving data, a definition based on federal government and industry standards.
Mars Hill University and Scripps College also misreported alumni giving rates. The University of North Carolina–Pembroke misreported high school class standing.
Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island was over-reporting its financial resource expenditures budget for its Providence campus for many years. Instead, the school was reporting financial expenditures data for all of its campuses.
Johnson & Wales recently told U.S. News for every $100 of financial resources expenditures it had reported, the accurate figure should have been around $62.
Financial resources expenditures per student account for 10% of the Best Colleges ranking. In addition to this criteria and alumni giving, U.S. News also considers social mobility, undergraduate academic reputation, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, student selectivity and graduation rate performance.