Incorrect data led to K-State accolade

Kansas State University was recently named one of the nation's 25 most desirable large public universities based mostly on selectivity, endowment, test scores and Manhattan's climate.

But it turns out that information from a federal database used by researchers for Newsweek to draw that conclusion had been misreported by K-State for two years in a row.

The Kaplan/Newsweek 2010 college rankings released Monday listed the Manhattan campus as the 16th most desirable.

Just for kicks, researcher Courtney Kennedy re-ran the data using corrected information.

Her conclusion?

K-State "would have been knocked out of the top 25," said Kennedy, senior methodologist who helped compile the ranking.

The piece of information causing the gaffe was K-State's admission rate. K-State's planning and analysis office mistakenly reported to the National Center for Education Statistics that of all the students who applied in 2008, only 56 percent were admitted.

That would make K-State a selective institution. It's not.

Ivy League schools such as Harvard or Yale have single-digit admission rates.

Like the University of Kansas and the other four-year public institutions in Kansas, students at K-State are automatically admitted if they score at least 21 out of a possible 36 on the ACT; are ranked in the top third of their graduating class; or have at least a 2.0 grade point average.

Cheryl May, a K-State spokeswoman, said someone at the university misunderstood which percentage the federal database was requesting and instead gave them the percent of students who, after acceptance, actually attend the university.

In selecting the top 25 desirable public institutions, Newsweek considered 11 criteria, including campus dining, housing and climate. But the most weight was given to admission rates, graduation rates, test scores and endowment.

The actual admission rate at K-State is about 98 percent, said Pat Bosco, vice president for student life.

May said the national database is now aware of the mistake and will correct it in its next data-issuing cycle.

"We appreciate that the overall criteria ranked us among the 25 most desirable large schools," May said.

"We win lots of awards. We earn them. We don't want to get any award that we don't deserve. We want to make sure any recognition of K-State is based on accurate and real data."