That’s a question asked by Richard Vedder in a new piece at Minding The Campus.

Why So Much Lying on Campus?

One of the things that strikes me about modern universities is the inordinate amount of lying that goes on -both by institutions and members of the university communities- and how little is done about it. As respect for moral absolutes is replaced with a mushy moral relativism, perhaps a decline in honesty is to be expected. But for people who regard universities as bastions of truth and integrity, this is rather disappointing.

Let’s start with universities lying about themselves. A good example is the increasing number of incidents of universities inflating admission statistics to improve their ranking in magazines. A year or so, we were shocked to hear that already highly regarded Claremont McKenna College had inflated average SAT scores of its students; the most recent of several similar incidents involves York University in Pennsylvania. In a world where the “bottom line” is murky, magazine rankings serve a useful function by providing consumers information otherwise unavailable. Since SAT scores and similar metrics are important, there are temptations to lie in order to improve the published rank.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity, which I head, does the rankings for Forbes Magazine, and we have been spending a fair amount of time of late discussing with our colleagues at Forbes what to do about this problem. Do we throw cheaters out of the rankings for a few years? That hurts the schools, but also reader/consumers as well. Do we impose a penalty that artificially lowers the ranking of the school? Again, it is a punishment but it can lead to some misrepresentation of the school’s true performance. Do we asterisk the school and say to the reader “this school has in the past given false information about student test scores so this ranking should be regarded with some caution”? We are wrestling with these questions, as, no doubt, is US News & World Report and others.