CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — An ongoing investigation into the use of inflated grades and entrance-exam scores in University of Illinois law school marketing material found inaccurate data was posted online for the four most recent classes, university officials said Wednesday.
For three of those classes, the inaccurate information was also forwarded to the American Bar Association and to ranking organizations, such as the influential U.S. News & World Report, university spokesman Tom Hardy said. The snapshot data of law school students is often used to attract future students, among other things.
The university hired an outside law firm and a forensic data analysis company to investigate after receiving complaints and finding that the data posted online for the class of 2014 was inaccurate. Investigators have looked at the data for the 10 most recent law school classes and found inaccurate Law School Admissions Test and GPA scores posted in online student profiles for the classes of 2011 through 2014, Hardy said. The inaccurate data forwarded to the association and ranking groups was for the classes of 2011-2013, he said.
"We've taken the 10-year period of time, looked at all those years, found that, with the exception of the last four classes, everything was as it should be," he said. "Meanwhile, the investigation isn't complete. (But) I think we're getting near the end."
The oldest data, posted shortly after the class of 2011 enrolled, has been online since 2009, Hardy said.
The university is talking to both the bar association and ranking organizations, Hardy said.
Messages left with the bar association were not returned. Earlier this year, the association censured the law school Villanova University for submitting falsified admissions data for several years.
University President Michael Hogan called the posting of inflated student scores in online class profiles "absolutely unacceptable."
"The university, the campus and the College of Law place the highest priority on accuracy and integrity, and we will take measures to ensure that this never happens again," Hogan said in a news release.
Bob Morse is director of data research at U.S. News & World Report and in charge of the magazine's widely read academic rankings. He said he hopes Illinois' misstep serves as a deterrent.
"That you have to admit publicly that you did this is embarrassing to the school and hopefully will have a dampening effect on others that do this," he said.
LSAT scores and GPAs of enrolled classes are among the factors the magazine considers in its rankings. It's too early to tell whether the inflated data will affect Illinois' ranking, Morse said, but the school won't immediately be re-ranked.
The discrepancies between actual and real data reported by Villanova were greater than the information reported by Illinois, Morse said, but Villanova's ranking fell from 67th in the country to 84th.
Illinois is currently 23rd on the magazine's list of law schools, fifth among Big Ten schools, and new rankings aren't due out until next spring. Yale has the nation's top-ranked law school.
Hardy said the university plans to release a report with its findings on the law school data after the investigation is complete. College of Law admissions dean Paul Pless was placed on leave earlier this month, and his status hasn't changed, Hardy said.