Flagler College Pads Student Data; In Dog-House With SACS, U.S. News & World Report
An independent investigation is underway at Flagler College in St. Augustine following the disclosure that test scores and grade point averages of some incoming freshmen between 2010 and 2013 had been changed to improve the school’s standings.
The falsified information was distributed to a number of agencies and organizations including the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools which is the accrediting body for degree-granting institutions in Florida and ten other southern states. SACS President Belle Wheelan says she’s asked Flagler to submit a report detailing what happened and what steps are being taken to fix the situation.
“Once I get that report," she says, "then a determination will be made as to whether they’re out of compliance with any of our standards and what action our board might take in response to that."
Wheelan says if the SACS board decides the proposed fix is inadequate, Flagler would be given six months to a year to develop remedies that are acceptable.
In addition to submitting falsified data to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Flagler also provided doctored information to U.S.News and World Report.
Each fall, the magazine ranks the nation’s colleges and universities based on things like tuition costs, class sizes and schools’ 6-year graduation rate. Last year, Flagler ranked 7th among Southern Regional colleges. Whether the school gets to keep that ranking is yet to be determined says Bob Morse, U.S.News and World Report’s Director of Data Research.
“I’m not going to tell you what we’re going to do until we see the actual report," he says, "because at this point, nobody knows whether, how large a difference the misreporting made.”
Morse says Flagler could lose its 2013 ranking if it’s determined the falsified data improved the school’s standing on the list.
Flagler is not the first school to this kind of thing, however. According to Morse, four schools admitted they misrepresented themselves last year including George Washington University in D.C. and Emory University in Atlanta.