A former dean of Temple University’s business school was found guilty on Monday of using fraudulent data between 2014 and 2018 to boost the school’s national rankings and increase revenue, federal prosecutors said.
The former dean, Moshe Porat, 74, was convicted of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a scheme to raise the ranking of the university’s Fox School of Business in Philadelphia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in a statement on Monday. The school’s online M.B.A. program was ranked best in the country by U.S. News & World Report in the years that he falsified data.
Prosecutors said Mr. Porat had conspired with Isaac Gottlieb, then a business professor, and Marjorie O’Neill, then the school’s finance and accounting manager, to submit inflated metrics to the publication about enrollment, test scores and student work experience.
A date has not been set for Mr. Porat’s sentencing, said Jennifer Crandall, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office. He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, prosecutors said in April.
Mr. Gottlieb pleaded guilty in June and Ms. O’Neill in May to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Mr. Gottlieb is scheduled to be sentenced in March and Ms. O’Neill in December, Ms. Crandall said. They each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $500,000 fine, prosecutors said in a statement in April.
A lawyer for Mr. Porat did not respond to emails and phone calls on Monday. It was not clear which lawyers represented Mr. Gottlieb and Ms. O’Neill.
“This case was certainly unusual, but at its foundation it is just a case of fraud and underlying greed,” Jennifer Arbittier Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, said in the statement on Monday. She said Mr. Porat had misrepresented information to “defraud the rankings system, potential students and donors.”
Between 2014 and 2018, because of the fraudulent data, the business school’s online and part-time M.B.A. programs saw an abrupt lift in the rankings from U.S. News & World Report, prosecutors said. Colleges and universities often jockey for a high position in the publication’s yearly college rankings, which are closely followed, so they can draw talented students and raise fund-raising dollars.
Temple’s part-time M.B.A. program rose from 53rd in the country in 2014 to seventh in 2017, prosecutors said. It is now ranked 41st. The online M.B.A. program was rated the best in the country between 2015 and 2018, but it is now ranked at 100 out of more than 300.
Prosecutors said Mr. Porat “boasted about these rankings” in marketing material for the business school.
“Enrollment in Fox’s O.M.B.A. and P.M.B.A. programs grew dramatically in a few short years, which led to millions of dollars a year in increased tuition revenues,” prosecutors said in the statement on Monday.
In a statement in April, Terry Harris, a special agent in charge of the Education Department’s Office of Inspector General, said Mr. Porat abused his position of trust to defraud students.
“We will continue to aggressively pursue those who scam students or rig the system for their selfish purposes,” she said.
Mr. Porat, of Bala Cynwyd, Pa., was the business school dean between 1996 and 2018, until he was fired for falsifying the data, prosecutors said. The school reported to U.S. News & World Report in 2018 that it had misrepresented data. Temple hired the law firm Jones Day to review the business school’s data reporting process, and the firm found that the school had misreported data as far back as 2014, according to the university’s website.
Temple has paid around $17 million in settlements to former students, the U.S. Department of Education and the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office, a university spokesman said on Monday.
In a statement on Monday, a university spokesman said, “This is an unhappy moment for our students and alumni.”
“The evidence presented at the trial speaks for itself, but is not representative of Temple,” he said.
Temple University is not the only institution that has been caught manipulating the college ranking system — in particular, the avidly watched U.S. News & World Report rankings — by twisting the meanings of rules, cherry-picking data or just lying.
In 2011, Iona College in New Rochelle, north of New York City, acknowledged that its employees had lied for years not only about test scores, but also about graduation rates, freshman retention, student-faculty ratio, acceptance rates and alumni giving.
Claremont McKenna College, a small, prestigious California school, admitted in 2012 that it had submitted false SAT scores for years to publications like U.S. News & World Report.