Speed Reads

Data Drama

Columbia University acknowledges submitting inaccurate data for consideration in college rankings

Columbia University released a statement on Friday taking accountability for submitting inaccurate data gathered with "outdated and/or incorrect methodologies" to U.S. News & World Report for their 2021 college rankings list, per CNN

Columbia mathematics professor Michael Thaddeus first questioned the university's standing in February. The Ivy League school had a meteoric rise from 18th place in the list's 1988 debut to 2nd place in 2021. Thaddeus posted a statement on Columbia University's Department of Mathematics website, highlighting that "few other top-tier universities have also improved their standings, but none has matched Columbia's extraordinary rise."

Thaddeus connected Columbia's unprecedented rise to the school's ranking to data submitted to U.S. News. He concluded that the data did not accurately reflect the experience of attending the university and figures Columbia has posted elsewhere. Thaddeus reportedly sifted through data on "undergraduate class size, percentage of faculty with terminal degrees, percentage of faculty who are full-time, and student-faculty ratio," and concluded that significant discrepancies seemed to paint Columbia more positively. 

Columbia University Provost Mary Boyce said in a June statement that the university would "refrain from submitting data to U.S. News & World Report" for the publication's 2022 undergraduate college rankings. The following month the publication pulled several of Columbia University's rankings in the 2022 edition of Best Colleges, though it isn't clear if this was in response to Thaddeus' findings.