Rowan University, a public college in southern New Jersey, said it erroneously excluded some SAT scores in a fact sheet about a proposed merger with the Camden branch of the state’s flagship Rutgers University.
Governor Chris Christie proposed in January folding the Rutgers-Camden campus into Glassboro-based Rowan, which would also gain control of Rutgers’s law school in Camden. Rowan reported its first-time freshman regular-admission students as having an average SAT score of about 1,170, higher than it would have been if “special admits students” were included, Joe Cardona, a Rowan spokesman, said in an interview.
Opponents of the merger have said the Rowan name doesn’t have the same prestige as Rutgers, and the SAT error underscores the point, said William FitzGerald, an assistant professor of English at the Rutgers-Camden campus.
“For the average person not in higher ed, SAT scores seem to be strong evidence of achieving the highest standards of academic excellence,” FitzGerald said in an interview. “It seems like Rowan is trying so desperately to show that it’s ready to be the new university in South Jersey that’s going to transform the region.”
Rowan’s “special admit” students, who may be from lower- income areas of the state and less academically prepared, are allowed admission to Rowan under New Jersey’s Educational Opportunity Fund program, which allows for lower scores, Cardona said. Special admissions also include those with “exceptional talents,” such as musicians or artists, who may not meet academic standards, he said.
“It was a junior staffer who miscalculated Rutgers numbers,” Cardona said. “Whatever we did, we got it wrong.”
The fact sheet, which compared Rowan and Rutgers-Camden, was presented as part of the merger discussion to legislators and business people in the past month, Cardona said.
Rowan didn’t send incorrect data to the U.S. Department of Education or publishers such as U.S. News & World Report, Cardona said. Scores on entrance exams are used in college rankings, which are influential with students and parents.
“We were pleased to see the error explained by Rowan and accept the university’s explanation,” Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie, said in an e-mail. “It’s certainly not something that will impact the realignment plan.”
The Save Rutgers-Camden coalition of students, faculty and alumni are expected to present lawmakers today with a petition of 11,000 signatures opposing the measure.
Claremont McKenna College, a liberal arts school near Los Angeles, disclosed in January that an admissions official had inflated SAT scores since 2005.
Christie’s plan would create a broader, research-based university in southern New Jersey that would consist of the assets of both Rowan and Rutgers, along with the newly created Cooper Medical School of Rowan University at Camden’s Cooper Hospital, Christie said in a statement announcing the plan.
The plan also calls for reshuffling Rutgers University in the northern part of the state and recasting the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey as the New Jersey Health Sciences University.
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