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Editorial: Unethical attempts to satisfy rankings should be questioned

Baylor University in Texas finds itself in quite the predicament. Its ethics and morality have come under scrutiny after a plan aimed to increase its image unraveled, with a top administrator saying Baylor “goofed” in ever offering a ranking-boosting program.

It seems Baylor University, a private research university that claims to be the largest Baptist university in the world by enrollment, offered incoming freshmen incentives to retake the SATs to improve their scores and, consequently, the university’s image. Baylor’s reasoning, apparently, was that it would seem more elite by admitting the creme de la creme of incoming freshmen — students with high SAT scores.

Some of the incentives were cash-based. A student could get $300 in bookstore money for simply retaking the test.

Astoundingly, if students scored a minimal 50 points more on the SAT, they would receive $1,000 more in scholarship money for the year.

The actions on the university’s part are quite sad.  Resorting to paying students to create an image of a prestigious university seems like nothing more than a pathetic — and ethically objectionable — attempt to inflate rankings.

Granted, it’s not uncommon for universities to base their marketing on rankings.

This is because, as The Cornell Chronicle reported, they are key for attracting brighter students, who choose to attend better-ranked schools. Also, high-ranked universities can demand more tuition.

As common or superficially important as rankings may be, that doesn’t mean that Baylor’s actions are correct or foster proper education. Instead of making quailty education its top priority, Baylor sought to satisfy parents by making sure it was listed on high-profile polls. Polls, mind you, that mean nothing if the universities don’t offer the education to back their claims.

Baylor’s student newspaper, The Lariat, reported that $862,000 was spent on the program and that it was funded by the financial aid office.

Obviously, this is money that could’ve been spent on the quality of the education itself — perhaps by way of offering ethically clean merit- or need-based scholarships to incoming students.

Baylor University needs to get its priorities straight and get back to basics by focusing on what the institution was originally built for — to educate tomorrow’s leaders, not make itself look good.