GWU admissions dean to retire following data misreporting to U.S. News

George Washington University announced Wednesday that its dean of undergraduate admissions is retiring, one month after the school disclosed that for several years it had inflated a key measure of the academic strength of incoming freshmen.

A statement from GWU indicated that Kathryn Napper, who also holds the title of associate vice president, would retire at the end of December after working at the university for 35 years.

There was no mention in the statement of the misreporting of admissions data that led U.S. News and World Report to demote GWU in its ranking of top national universities.

GWU had been ranked 51st on the U.S. News list before the disclosure that it had submitted incorrect data about the share of incoming students who ranked in the top 10 percent of their class in high school. Originally, the school said that 78 percent of incoming students were at that level. It corrected that figure on Nov. 8, to 58 percent.

As a result, GWU was pulled from the U.S. News rankings that aim to gauge the nation’s top colleges and universities. U.S. News said in November that it will leave GWU unranked until September, when the publication releases its next rankings, provided the university confirms the accuracy of data it submits.

School officials call the misreporting of data an error caused by a flawed methodology that the school used for more than a decade. Napper has been dean of admissions since 1997. She did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Napper will leave the university in the midst of the busiest season for admissions. The deadline for early-decision applications was Nov. 16, and the first round of accepted students is usually announced in December. Regular applications for the Class of 2017 are due in early January, and the admissions staff will spend the first few months of the year building an incoming class.

The loss of a national ranking would be a blow for any university, but the news seemed to hit GWU’s Foggy Bottom campus especially hard. Twitter lit up with snarky comments and there were calls for administrators to be held responsible. Even now, a month later, some students are still angry about the episode.

In late November, the student government held a town hall meeting during which GWU President Steven Knapp and other top administrators answered pre-submitted questions from students. While the meeting answered some questions, it raised additional ones.

The student newspaper, the Hatchet, published an editorial asking why the results of an independent audit of the misreported data have not been released. “It is in the University’s best interest to release a formal report,” the Dec. 3 editorial read. “Otherwise, it is blatantly failing to be transparent with a community that is asking for answers to glaring questions.”

The GWU announcement of Napper’s retirement praised her for significantly increasing the number of undergraduate applications from both domestic and international markets, among other accomplishments.

“The students who enrolled at the university under her leadership have made GW a stronger and better institution,” Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, said in the announcement. “On behalf of the university and its leadership, we thank Kathy for her long and admirable service to the institution and wish her the best.”

A former Post education editor, Nick writes about college from the perspective of a father of three who will soon be buried in tuition bills.
Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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