Washington and Lee report: no evidence of impropriety in counting of applications


The historic campus ofWashington and Lee University in Lexington, Va. (Stephanie Gross/The Washington Post)

Washington and Lee University’s president on Friday publicly endorsed a report that found no evidence of impropriety in how the school counts annual applications for admission.

But Kenneth P. Ruscio, the president, said the liberal arts school in Lexington, Va., will take steps to clarify its counting procedures.

The review was prompted by a Washington Post article last month on application-counting methods and how they affect admission rates. The article reported that the prestigious university included more than 1,100 incomplete applications in its official count of 5,972 applicants for the class that entered in 2012.

The official admission rate for the school that year was 19 percent. If the 1,100 had been omitted, the rate would have been 24 percent.

Several schools in Washington and Lee’s peer group contacted by The Post said they include a modest number of incomplete applications in their totals. But others said they do not, and the issue has drawn increased attention in recent years.

The federal government defines an applicant as “an individual who has fulfilled the institution’s requirements to be considered for admission” and has been notified of admission, nonadmission, placement on a waiting list or withdrawal of the application. The definition, experts say, gives universities some room for interpretation.

At Ruscio’s request, three officials examined the counting question: Marc Conner, associate provost; Beau Dudley, executive director of alumni affairs; and Sidney Evans, vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

“We find no evidence that W&L Admissions has engaged in an improper method of counting or reporting undergraduate admissions applications, or that anything was done to gain an unfair advantage,” the three concluded in a statement posted on the university Web site. “We believe that Washington and Lee has counted and reported applicants in accordance with industry standards” and methodologies established by the government and higher-education analysts.

They said the university should count anyone who applies to Washington and Lee through the Common Application and pays the associated fee or requests a fee waiver. “The university should clarify in writing which supplemental application materials it recommends, and which ones it truly requires,” the three officials wrote.

The officials said they reached their conclusions after interviewing internal university sources and “three well-respected and long-time deans of admission from around the country,” who were not identified.

“As the report recommends,” Ruscio said, “we will specify more clearly how we count applicants and why — and we will continue to conform with the guidelines as we always have.”

Nick Anderson covers higher education for The Washington Post. He has been a writer and editor at The Post since 2005.

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