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Protecting your institution’s admissions integrity

Recent cases of admissions fraud at prestigious institutions have created distressing situations for colleges and universities across the nation. As a result, admissions practices have come under fire.

Proactive institutions have begun to initiate reviews of admissions and enrollment processes to assess potential exposure to risk. Many colleges and universities are also considering how adverse events within the admissions process can impact other areas of the institution.

Recent cases of admissions fraud or contention relate to:

  • Fabricated student credentials
  • Administrator, coach and proctor bribery
  • Falsified test scores
  • Claims of inconsistent or discriminatory practices

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Assessing key risks

When evaluating the integrity of admissions and enrollment practices, institutions should:

Considerations for athletics admissions

Several instances of admissions fraud involve athletics. One example includes inappropriately designating applicants as recruited athletes to gain admissions. To address these risks, institutions should:

  • Compare admissions standards and requirements for non-athletic versus recruited athletic students
  • Assess the relationship and communication between the athletics department, coaches and the admissions office
  • Review the list of applicants identified as athletes, and determine whether those individuals were admitted at a higher rate
  • Identify students admitted as student-athletes that are not on an athletic team
  • Implement controls to independently review an applicant’s credentials
  • Utilize social media research to establish athletic background

Unintended consequences of admissions improprieties

Admissions fraud can lead to a number of inadvertent consequences. For example, institutions regularly report on admissions data to external agencies. Reporting falsified data — intentionally, or unintentionally — can cause:

  • Reputational damage
  • Removal from rankings and/or guidebooks
  • Loss of accreditation
  • Loss of federal funding

Reporting errors in traditional application data have spurred investigations into financial aid application data integrity. The U.S. Department of Education has initiated investigations to examine evidence of violations governing the federal student financial aid programs administered under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Enhancing admissions and enrollment management functions

Institutions should take steps to ensure effective admissions operations, avoid improprieties and ensure that policies and procedures support the integrity of the institution by:

  1. Evaluating admissions staffing levels, roles, responsibilities and decision-making authority
  2. Ensuring transparency around institution-wide standards for unique student groups (e.g., athletes, honors students, merit scholars)
  3. Identifying red flags or control gaps that could threaten the integrity of the admissions process
  4. Requiring continual reporting of admissions and enrollment metrics
  5. Developing meaningful data analytics in support of effective and consistent decision making
  6. Seeking alignment of recruitment, admission and enrollment decisions with strategic priorities, including fiscal viability

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly higher education specialists can help, contact our team.

Protecting your institution’s admissions integrity webinar

The admissions process is a critical element of every institution’s strategic and operational success. However, recent admissions headlines have created distressing situations for colleges and universities across the nation. As a result, admissions practices are under fire. How can institutions address the challenges associated with admissions integrity and help prevent potential reputational and legal damage, while supporting a robust, successful admissions function?

Institutions should take steps to ensure effective admissions operations, avoid improprieties and confirm that policies and procedures support the integrity of the institution. In this webinar, we will share ideas on how to proactively address stakeholder concerns and ensure your institution is positioned to mitigate admissions related risks.

Download the webinar presentation

For more information on this topic, or to learn how Baker Tilly higher education specialists can help, contact our team.

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