The scandal involving falsified SAT scores at top-ranked Claremont McKenna College has been headline news this week in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other major media outlets. Thus far, reports have framed the fraud as a likely effort to boost the school’s rankings in U.S. News and World Report. However, newly released data about about the altered statistics suggest that the fraudulant score reports may have been part of an effort to compensate for lower test scores among students who were admitted as part of two programs designed to enhance racial and economic diversity:
in 2004, Claremont began admitting its first of four classes from the Posse Foundation, a full-scholarship program for inner-city students from Los Angeles. Ten students were admitted per year into a class of about 250 students, for a total of 40 students over four years. The students were personally interviewed by Vos and Gann, according to a press release from the college’s website in late December 2003, but in his 2005 report to U.S. News–the first year Posse students were admitted–Vos began falsifying SAT scores. The actual and manipulated mean SAT verbal and math scores are below; the median are accessible here.
In 2007, Claremont began admitting students from QuestBridge, another scholarship program for students from poor and largely minority backgrounds. Posse has partnered with such schools as Bowdoin, Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Colby, DePauw, Grinnell, Middlebury, and Vanderbilt; QuestBridge has partnered with some thirty-one other colleges, including most of the Ivy League, M.I.T., Pomona, Oberlin, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and Williams.
Although we do not know the statistics for the Posse students, we do have reason to doubt their academic qualifications as a group. At least one student flunked out and several took leaves of absence for academic reasons. A 1998 evaluation of the Posse program at Vanderbilt University found that athletes entered with an average of 1042 SAT score and maintained an average GPA of 3.13, while Posse students came in with a 900 average SAT and finished with a 2.93 average GPA. Due to the low grades of Posse students in their engineering programs, Rice and Lehigh canceled their involvement with Posse, according to the L.A. Times in 2004.
At Claremont, the class of 2011, admitted in 2007, is the only class admitted in its history to have members of both QuestBridge and Posse in its ranks. It was also the class that saw its mean math scores inflated the most – by 28 points.