The back story on Villanova's grade fiasco

One of the great ironies of the Villanova law school grade inflation scandal is that the one school to have suffered the ignominy of admitting that it had massaged its data likely will now have the most unimpeachable statistics on incoming students and graduate employment prospects.

The ABA censured Villanova on Friday for inflating grade point averages and average LSAT scores for incoming freshman from 2005 through 2009. Along with the ABA announcement, the law school made its most detailed disclosure yet on what had happened and the steps it had taken make sure publicly available data is reliable from now on.

It said that not only had the academic qualifications of incoming freshmen been falsified but also the all important yield statistics. Yield refers to the percentage of students who accepted offers of admission. For a period of time, the law school understated the number offers to boost the yield percentage, a key factor in national rankings.

The law school said that a small number of admissions staff personnel and senior administrators had participated in scheme and that they had since left the law school. It hired KPMG to sort through its data collection and reporting process to recommend changes, and proposed to the ABA that an independent monitor oversee the reporting for two years to make sure that Villanova is complying applicable standards.

The irony is this: In its abject acknowledgement of the data reporting fraud, Villanova now likely be the source of the most uncontestable data on its incoming freshman and graduates. No one really knows how reliable most law school data is because the reporting is done under a “trust me” system.  The law schools report to the ABA and the information is then used by prospective students and to compile rankings like those published in U.S. News & World Report.

When Villanova learned of problems, it disclosed them voluntarily. Its process has now been subject to an intensive, corporate style compliance review – far more scrutiny than other law schools.  

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