UPDATED: Scripps College Misreports Student Loan Debt Levels
On Thursday, June 28th, Scripps College President Lori Bettison-Varga sent a statement to faculty, staff and students. The email reported that the college had been providing inaccurate reports on average student loan debt to the Common Data Set. The average debt was misreported. Scripps students graduate with higher levels of debt than has been previously reported.
The college asserts that no individual student profile was inaccurately reported. In her email, President Bettison-Varga announced that the school plans to continue to meet 100% of demonstrated need. Scripps will also begin looking into the implications of this more accurate debt profile on its students and families.
The college has not yet released an official statement with accurate numbers on student debt, nor on the level of involvement of officials within the school in reporting this information. Scripps has since retained the services of O'Melveny & Myers LLP as outside legal counsel - the same firm used by Claremont McKenna College in the wake of the recent SAT score misreporting scandal.
The Forum has reproduced President Bettison-Varga's email below. Continue to to check back with the The Forum as we continue coverage of the incident as new information is announced.
June 28, 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I am disappointed to inform you that Scripps College has discovered that it misreported average cumulative loan debt for graduating students for approximately 10 years to the Common Data Set (CDS), an organization to which we voluntarily provide statistics for use in higher education publications. The incorrect statistics implied that our students had incurred less debt on average than was actually the case.
The CDS requests reporting of the average loan debt of the student population who has borrowed, excluding parent loans, and comprising all Federal, institutional and private debt, including debt that was elective (or not need-based). However, it appears the College reported only the cumulative averages of subsidized Federal loan debt, which are loans included in the need-based financial aid packages awarded to students.
We are committed to ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the statistics we report. I am meeting today with members of the Scripps College community to inform them of this news. The integrity of Scripps College is at the heart of the education and experience we offer our students. In an effort to ensure that all public statistics are correctly reported, we are working diligently and expediently to provide the CDS with accurate cumulative average loan debt numbers.
We have retained O'Melveny & Myers LLP as outside legal counsel to conduct an external review of the misreporting, and they intend to hire Grant Thornton LLP to conduct a forensic accounting of our student loan statistics. Upon completion of the review, we will share the findings with our community.
While we regret what has occurred, it is important to note that individual student debt profiles have been accurately communicated to students and their families, and are in no way associated with or affected by this reporting error. It continues to be the cornerstone of Scripps College's admission and financial aid policy to meet 100% of documented student need.
We will continue to deliver highly personalized assistance to each student and family to help them manage the cost of a Scripps education. This misreporting of our statistics suggests that all of us need to have a greater understanding of the reality of how our students are funding their college experience, and we look forward to having a robust conversation on these important financial aid issues with all of our community.
We remain fully committed to our primary mission, which is to develop the intellect and talent of our students through a high-quality education.
Scripps College released the following statement to the Forum:
Scripps College has discovered that it has misreported average cumulative loan debt for graduating students to the Common Data Set (CDS) for approximately ten years. The incorrect statistics implied that our students had incurred less debt on average than was actually the case. We are working diligently to correct this error and are committed to being accurate in the statistics we report. We have retained O’Melveny & Myers LLP to conduct an external review of the misreporting, including a forensic accounting of our student loan statistics conducted by Grant Thornton LLP, and will share the report’s findings with our community upon its completion.
Note: this article and its headline were updated on Friday June 29th at 2:51pm. To clarify, the email from President Bettison-Varga states numbers were "misreported" not "falsely reported."