Temple business school dean convicted of falsifying rankings

In first such prosecution, Moshe Porat faces 25 years in jail for conspiracy with professor and administrator to dramatically boost MBA rankings

November 30, 2021
Philadelphia, USA - May 4, 2015 Temple University building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
Source: iStock

A long-time Temple University business school dean has been convicted in the first trial of a US campus administrator accused of using false data to boost institutional rankings.

The former dean, Moshe Porat, faces up to 25 years in jail after being found guilty in federal court of manipulations that led US News & World Report to repeatedly rank his school’s online MBA programme as the best in the nation.

Two other former employees of Temple’s Richard J. Fox School of Business and Management – Isaac Gottlieb, a professor, and Marjorie O’Neill, a finance and accounting manager – earlier pleaded guilty in the case and face up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors told the jury that the three together provided US News with false information in areas that included admissions test data, student work experience and student enrolment status.

Porat, the school’s dean for more than two decades, did not testify in his trial but has argued that the misinformation represented innocent data entry mistakes. He, however, was described to jurors by some of his former employees as determined to push up his school’s rankings.

US News rankings are regularly touted by US colleges and universities as markers of accomplishment, even as many experts criticise them as based on measures that are often manipulated and do not reflect true institutional success.

Other institutions that have admitted submitting false rankings data in the past include Villanova University, the University of Illinois, Iona College and Claremont McKenna College.

In Temple’s case, federal prosecutors said, the fraud drove up the business school rankings “dramatically in a few short years, which led to millions of dollars a year in increased tuition revenues”.

Relying on the false information it received from Temple’s business school, US News ranked its online MBA as the best in the nation for four years in a row starting in 2015. Its enrolment doubled between 2014 and 2017. It is now ranked 100th nationally.

Temple’s part-time MBA programme also shot up the US News rankings, from 53rd in 2014 to seventh in 2017.

The scheme fell apart in 2018 after Poets&Quants, a website covering graduate business education, began questioning the underlying data.

That eventually led Temple to pay an estimated $17 million (£13 million) in settlements to former students and government agencies. Porat’s conviction may now save the university some money, as he has been getting paid more than $300,000 a year as a tenured professor since his 2018 removal as dean.

O’Neill was due to be sentenced in December and Gottlieb was scheduled for March. A sentencing date was not immediately set for Porat.

Temple, in a statement, called the verdict “an unhappy moment for our students and alumni”, but said it believes it nevertheless has “the most comprehensive business school in the greater Philadelphia region”.

“The evidence presented at the trial speaks for itself but is not representative of Temple or the overwhelming majority of the thousands of educational professionals serving our students,” a spokesman said.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

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