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Amid Ranking Scandal, George Washington Official Steps Down


Kathryn Napper in her office at George Washington University on March 8, 2012

Photograph by Francis Rivera/GW Hatchet

Kathryn Napper in her office at George Washington University on March 8, 2012

Kathryn Napper, who heads the admissions office at George Washington University, announced Dec. 12 that she will step down at the end of the calendar year after 35 years at the institution. This news comes on the heels of a scandal that erupted when administrators admitted that GWU was significantly inflating admissions data, which cost the university its coveted ranking in U.S. News & World Report.

The university had been estimating the percentage of freshmen who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school class because many of the schools no longer report class ranks. This estimate skewed the data. The provost’s office found that GWU was reporting 78 percent of the Class of 2015 was in the top 10 percent, when the figure was actually 58 percent. And this misrepresentation had been going on for years, according to statements made by university President Steven Knapp.

A prepared statement from Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, indicates that Napper is “retiring” and there is no mention of a connection between her departure and the false data. The GW Hatchet, the university’s independent student newspaper, reported that Knapp and Maltzman, through a spokesman, declined to comment on whether she was asked to leave. Napper was unavailable for comment, according to an e-mail from spokesperson Candace Smith.

Napper, the admissions office, and the university’s leadership have faced intense scrutiny since the news broke about the botched data. Many students, parents, and alumni have asked to see the audit report from the accounting and advisory firm Baker Tilly Beers & Cutler, which was hired to investigate the data GWU provided to the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. News, and others. In a written message to the GWU community, Knapp said no other errors were found and that the school would be taking steps to prevent this from happening in the future, including hiring someone outside the admissions office to handle enrollment management.

While Knapp and others answered student questions about the findings in a public forum, he says the audit firm provided an oral presentation on the investigation and no written documentation. In a Dec. 3 editorial, the Hatchet’s editorial board demanded more transparency and a written report.

GWU students are sharing mixed opinions on Twitter and in online comments, says Priya Anand, the Hatchet’s editor in chief. “Since the start, there have been students who were upset about the unranking because they see it as a blow to their school. Others say we don’t define ourselves by the ranking.”

One commenter on the Dec. 3 editorial fumed: “I think GW’s response has been outrageous. The university continues to maintain that this 10-year inflation of admissions data was a ‘mistake.’ This is obviously ridiculous—but they persist in saying it. They are lying to the students and the public. It shows how deep corruption is ingrained at GW and in higher education in general. As a college education has gotten more and more expensive, the corruption has grown. It’s pathetic.”

GWU was the third school this year found to have falsified data reported to ranking organizations. On Aug. 17, Emory University issued a statement saying it had intentionally misreported data on SAT and ACT scores and class rank since about 2000. In January, Claremont McKenna College, ranked No. 10 by U.S. News among top liberal arts schools, admitted to reporting false SAT scores for the past six years. Neither school was stripped of its U.S. News ranking.

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Francesca_dimeglio
Di Meglio is a reporter for Businessweek.com in Fort Lee, N.J.

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