Columbia University grading scandal raises questions about exorbitant value of Ivy League education


Caught cheating by one of its own professors, one of eight elite American Ivy League undergraduate schools has admitted to handing in assignments to score higher on a test shift.

Columbia Univesity, located in Upper Manhattan, had been ranked second best in the prestigious 2021 US News and World Report annual ranking thanks to the use of “obsolete and erroneous methodologies”. It’s been since dropped to 18e following the scandal.

The accusations are serious given the ongoing debate over the value of a typical university degree in the humanities, given that tuition fees have been among the main drivers of national inflation. Last month, President Joe Biden ended a heated debate over the burning political issue of student debt by ordering some of the over $1.6 trillion owed to the federal government be cancelled.

Admission is additionally extremely embarrassing as academic honesty is considered the cornerstone of higher education. Students who cheat on an exam or plagiarize sources without attribution are subject to immediate disciplinary action which can often involve expulsion.

“Anything less than complete accuracy in the data we report, regardless of size or reason, is inconsistent with the standards of excellence by which Columbia stands,” the university said. in a press release on Friday.

Unlike in other countries, the college one attends is often much more important to potential employers than the degree they earned or the strength of their GPA. The Ivy Leagues are considered the gold standard when it comes to teaching the nation’s best and brightest young minds how to best analyze problems and find a solution or present a logically compelling argument.

Harvard University, which has long boasted of the number of applicants it receives each year, may charge its students an arm and a leg for their education given that it could only accept a record 3.2% to their 2026 undergraduate class in April.

“Fictional Rankings”

This culture fosters a focus on rankings, reducing a university’s varied experiences to a small number of key performance indicators. Prospective students and their parents peruse the special annual edition of US News and World Report each year before making a decision about where to apply.

According Columbia’s own calculationstuition for that academic year alone is $65,000 – add room and board, and you’re talking $86,000 with typically three more years before a student graduates with their undergraduate degree.

Even after adjusting for inflation, the nonprofit College Board think tank estimated that the cost of tuition at an average private university in the 2020-2021 year doubled from what it was thirty years ago. For public universities, it has almost tripled.

If it turns out that a university like Columbia does not apply the kind of intellectual rigor expected, it could suffer considerably in attracting the best students and faculty, not to mention collecting donations from wealthy and successful alumni.

The Columbia professor who reported the problem

Michael Thaddeus, the Columbia math professor who discovered the inconsistencies, despised the ranking system.

“Is it logical to conclude from this madness that Columbia is the 18e best American university, worse than Cornell but better than Berkeley? he said to Gothamist. “Of course not, that would be ridiculous. The only thing that makes sense is to pay no attention to these fake rankings.

The university said a thorough evaluation of its processes was taking so long that it could no longer meet the data submission deadline for this year. US News and World Report undergraduate rankings.

Instead, Columbia emphasized in its statement the intangible benefit its students receive from being exposed to the “unparalleled” professional and cultural opportunities offered through its prime location on New York’s Upper West Side.

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