Iona College Admits to Inflating Rankings Data for 9 Years

Iona's current Best Colleges ranking would fall sharply using newly reported, corrected data.

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Given the degree and magnitude of Iona College's recent revelations of its data misreporting, U.S. News has evaluated how Iona's ranking in the current Best Colleges rankings would have changed. In the current, 2012 edition, Iona College is ranked 30th overall in the Regional Universities—North category. U.S. News estimates that Iona College's ranking would have fallen by approximately 20 places in that category, had we used accurate data instead of the data Iona first reported to us in April 2011.

Iona College posted a report on its website on Nov. 8, 2011, that said "we recently discovered inaccuracies in student performance data reported to external agencies. In response, we subsequently initiated a thorough investigation by outside legal counsel with the assistance of a third-party independent auditing firm."

The New Rochelle, N.Y., school revealed it had reported significant amounts of inaccurate data for nine consecutive years to organizations such as the U.S. Department of Education, New York Department of Education, Middle States Commission of Higher Education, Standard & Poor's, Moody's, National Collegiate Athletic Association, College Board, Peterson's, and Barron's.

This same inaccurate data was also reported to U.S. News by the school and was used to compute our Best Colleges rankings­—from the 2004 edition through the 2012 edition, online now. U.S. News requested and has received from Iona College the data for each of the nine years involved, which we used to determine the impact on the Best Colleges rankings.

Iona overstated figures for several ranking factors used in Best Colleges that account for 40 percent of the ranking model: six-year graduation rates (20.0 percent of the rankings), SAT scores (7.5 percent), alumni giving rate (5.0 percent), freshman retention rate (5.0 percent), acceptance rate (1.5 percent), and student-faculty ratio (1.0 percent).

U.S. News will maintain its longstanding policy of not revising previously published rankings. This was the same policy we followed when both University of Illinois Law School and Villanova University School of Law separately disclosed earlier in 2011 that they had erroneously reported admissions data.

[Read about Villanova Law and University of Illinois Law data inaccuracies.]

Data integrity is very important to U.S. News, and we rely on colleges to behave ethically and provide us with accurate information. In the case of Iona, in addition to being sent to U.S. News, the inaccurate information was reported to Iona's regional accrediting body, credit rating agencies, and the federal government—so the data misreporting went far beyond college rankings.

U.S. News asks schools in many cases to report the same data that is going to the U.S. Department of Education. We assume that Iona and other colleges take very seriously how they report data to such important external bodies. We hope Iona's new president fulfills the pledge of being truly open, transparent, and accurate.

U.S. News believes that inaccurate data reporting is not widespread among the more than 1,600 schools we survey for Best Colleges. However, the recent trend of schools coming forward to report major external data reporting is troubling. Hopefully, the public outcry and embarrassment from these cases will serve as a deterrent to other colleges from inflating data in the future.

This shows how Iona's newly corrected data compares to what Iona first reported for the 2012 Best Colleges rankings:

Fall 2010 entering class

Average verbal and math SAT

Actual after correction: 1,009
As first reported: 1,101
Acceptance rate

Actual after correction: 67.0
As first reported: 60.2 Average first year retention rate

Actual after correction: 80.75
As first reported: 85.75 Average six-year graduation rate

Actual after correction: 58.5
As first reported: 62.0 Student to faculty ratio

Actual after correction: 15:1
As first reported: 13:1 Average alumni giving rate

Actual after correction: 12.0
As first reported: 26.0