The Higher Education Bubble is forcing people to ship around for the best value, in terms of a college education, so  the prestige of an institution can be a significant factor in determining where to go.

Scott Jaschik in Inside Higher Ed reports that in the effort to attract new students, some higher education establishments now resort to false advertising.

George Washington University on Thursday became the third private university this year to admit that it has been reporting incorrect information about its new students — both on the university’s website and in information provided to U.S. News & World Report for rankings.

In the case of GW, the university — for at least a decade — has been submitting incorrect data on the class rank of new students. For the most recent class of new students, George Washington reported that 78 percent of new students were in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. The actual proportion of such students is 58 percent.

According to the university, the problem was identified over the summer when a new provost reorganized admissions functions, and reviewed admissions statistics. The university found that for applicants whose high schools don’t calculate ranks (a growing trend among high schools), the university estimated the class rank, based on grades and other factors. That policy is not permitted by U.S. News. After finding out what had been going on with class rank, the university had an outside audit done of all admissions data that is reported (including SAT scores) and found no other problems.

George Washington’s announcement follows the news this year that Claremont McKenna College and Emory University also reported incorrect data for years.

The guide that U.S. News sends to colleges specifically states that the institutions — in calculating the percentage of students in the top 10 percent of their classes — should include only students for whom the information is supplied by high schools.

In an interview, Forrest Maltzman, the senior vice provost who has been overseeing admissions since July, said that the university believes that the submission of incorrect class rank scores started more than a decade ago. but that the impact of this approach was minimal at first. Over the last 10 years, more high schools have stopped producing class ranks. Further, as GW has become more competitive in admissions, so more admitted students would have had high class ranks (or the grades that would have led GW to estimate that they were in the top 10 percent of their classes).

Maltzman said it was unclear who had come up with the idea of estimating students’ class ranks. But he said he was confident that whoever did was no longer in a position of authority in admissions. Asked if there had been sanctions against anyone as a result of the discovery, Maltzman said yes, but declined to provide specifics. He said he believed that the calculations were not made with any malice.

Since the university discovered the problem, GW has instituted new rules in which the university’s Office of Academic Planning and Assessment, not admissions, will handle requests for information by groups that rank colleges.