Here's how a university misled The Princeton Review rankings for 3 years

The Princeton Review announced Monday that it had stripped the University of Missouri-Kansas City from its 2014 ranking of 25 best college and business school entrepreneurial programs for grad and undergrads.

This is the first time the Princeton Review has removed a school from one of its rankings.

While the university says all of the information submitted for the most recent Princeton Review ranking was correct, both an internal and an external report found problems with how UMKC submitted data for the previous three years. At the request of the university, UMKC has also been removed from The Princeton Review’s 2011, 2012, and 2013 rankings, which included the misreported data.

PricewaterhouseCoopers conducted the audit. According to the PWC report, UMKC’s undergraduate and graduate programs consistently ranked highly on The Princeton Review’s list of the top programs for entrepreneurship during these years, a change from previous rankings.

The change appears to stem from UMKC’s use of data from the university’s Entrepreneurship Scholars Program — “e-scholar” program — in its reports to The Princeton Review.

As the PWC report details, the e-scholar program is a certificate program run through the UMKC’s Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. It is not a university-recognised program and does not award a UMKC degree, but rather a certificate of completion under IEI.

This program is not solely for UMKC students. It is open to the general public and costs $US500 for each “venture” launched through IEI.

“Applicants are not required to have an undergraduate degree or any form of previous education as the program is designed for entrepreneurs,” according to the audit.

The PWC report details how UMKC submitted false information in three categories that The Princeton Review uses in calculated its entrepreneurship program rankings: enrollment numbers, the number of student clubs, and the number of mentoring programs. A complementary report by former Thunderbird School of Global Management professor Robert Hisrich confirmed problems with these three categories of data.

Much of the problematic data in all three categories seems to have come from the former IEI director, who reportedly sent data to The Princeton Review based solely on e-scholar students, and not the UMKC undergraduate and graduate population. While there seems to be some disagreement among UMKC administrators interviewed in the PWC report about the legitimacy of including the e-scholar data in enrollment statistics, there are very clear misrepresentations in the student club data and mentorship program data, according to the audit.

Student Clubs

One question in the Princeton Review survey is “How many officially recognised clubs/organisations do you offer that are specifically for entrepreneurship students?”

From 2011 to 2013, the number of UMKC entrepreneurship clubs sharply increased, jumping from four to 29 in a year. According to the PWC survey, the former IEI director said that all students in the e-scholar program must participate in a club, but these clubs “did not have dues, scheduled meetings, meeting minutes or designated roles in the typical style a university recognised club would have.”

The IEI managing director told PWC that these clubs were a “wish list” put together by the former director, who then instructed a graduate student to put these clubs on the university website, according to the audit.

Below you can see how much the number of registered clubs rose in 2011, 2012, and 2013:

Mentoring Programs

The Princeton Review also asks, “How many officially-sponsored mentorship programs do you offer specifically for entrepreneurship students?”

The former IEI director submitted that UMKC had 78 distinct mentorship programs based on the fact that it had 130 mentors for the e-scholar program with “38 industry specific horizontals and 40 business function specific verticals.”

However, the dean of UMKC Bloch School of Management told PWC “that it was ‘pretty clear’ that the former IEI Director was defining things in a way that was ‘not consistent with the way the normal person would.'”

According to the PWC audit, the IEI managing director said that “at the absolute most, if UMKC broke out their mentors into broad dimensional focuses, they would have five or six programs and 78 was never a reasonable number.”

Below, you can see how much the number of mentorship programs rose in 2011, 2012, and 2013:

The university released the following statement from UMKC chancellor Leo Morton following The Princeton Review’s announcement:

A detailed review of the rankings of our Henry W. Bloch School of Management, performed at the request of the University of Missouri Board of Curators, revealed flaws in how we reported some statistics to The Princeton Review, which has ranked the Bloch School’s undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs among the Top 25 in the nation.

According to that review, our applications to The Princeton Review for consideration of rankings in 2011, 2012 and 2013 included inaccurate information submitted in three of 40 subject areas The Review considers for its rankings. The incorrect data provided included the number of student clubs, the number of mentoring programs and select enrollment numbers. Two members of the Bloch School faculty submitted inflated statistics in those three categories.

As a result of that finding, The Princeton Review informed us today that it is withdrawing the Bloch School’s ranking for 2014. While Bloch had revised its application process in 2014 and has great confidence in that year’s rankings submission, we understand why the Princeton Review has taken this step. Even one inaccurate data point is one too many, and our integrity is paramount. With that in mind, we have requested that The Princeton Review withdraw our rankings from 2011, 2012 and 2013, based on the inaccurate information provided for those years.

The Bloch School will continue a journey that began more than a year ago to ensure that our rankings submissions follow best practices. Over the past twelve months, the Bloch School has implemented significant changes in our ranking applications procedures, including oversight of the process under a new leader of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and, as Bloch School Dean Dave Donnelly announced last week, he has also appointed someone to lead a special faculty committee to oversee all ranking applications and processes.

UMKC and the Bloch School are committed to ensuring that the academic integrity of this institution is maintained and strengthened and we are confident that the months ahead will show we have achieved that.

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