The former dean of Temple University’s business school fed false data to U.S. News & World Report for years to inflate the school’s ranking and attract students, federal prosecutors alleged, in their latest crackdown involving higher education.
Moshe Porat, who ran the Richard J. Fox School of Business for more than two decades until his ouster in 2018, was charged by a federal grand jury with conspiring to defraud applicants, students and donors by falsely boosting the school’s ranking for online MBA programs to No. 1 four years in a row.
The alleged scheme, which prosecutors claim lasted from 2010 to 2018, was outlined in an indictment unsealed Friday in federal court in Philadelphia, where the university is based. The grand jury concluded that Porat, who was paid nearly $600,000 for the 2017-2018 school year, should forfeit all personal gains from the alleged fraud. Even after he left his role as dean, he has continued to be a tenured professor, earning more than $300,000 a year from Temple although he hasn’t taught classes or published research since 2018, according to the court filing.
“The goals of the conspiracy included attracting more students to apply to Fox, matriculate at Fox, and pay tuition to Fox, and enticing Fox alumni and other benefactors to donate money to Fox,” the government said in the indictment. Fox benefited financially because each Temple school is permitted to keep 87% of its revenue, with the rest going to the university, according to the U.S.
The indictment reflects an aggressive stance by the Justice Department in bringing criminal cases alleging cheating in college admissions. The most notorious of them, and the subject of a recent Netflix documentary, is the prosecution of corrupt admissions strategist Rick Singer and dozens of wealthy parents who allegedly conspired to get their kids into elite universities by fixing their test scores and faking bios to present them as star athletes for recruitment.
Porat’s lawyer, Michael A. Schwartz, said in a statement that he’s disappointed the U.S. decided to bring charges after his client cooperated with its investigation.
“Dr. Porat dedicated forty years of his life to serving Temple University, first as a faculty member, and ultimately as Dean of the Fox Business School, and he did so with distinction,” Schwartz said. “He looks forward to defending himself against these charges and to clearing his name.”
Temple spokesperson Ray Betzner said the school is continuing to cooperate with law enforcement and can’t comment on the details of the criminal investigation or the charges.
“What we can say is that the ongoing discovery process in Porat’s defamation lawsuit against Temple in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has uncovered facts previously unavailable to the university,” Betzner said in a statement. “This new information confirms Temple’s decision to remove Porat as dean of the Fox School of Business in July 2018.”
Porat filed a defamation suit against Temple over his ouster three years ago.
A press representative for U.S. News didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the charges.
Applicants and their parents look to rankings by sources such as U.S. News to help make decisions about college and graduate school based on metrics like test scores. U.S. News is among a number of publications, including Bloomberg Businessweek, that rank MBA programs. Porat isn’t charged with wrongdoing related to any of the other publications.
Graduate business schools often don’t provide the array of grants and financial aid that undergraduate colleges do, and selecting a school can mean a big financial commitment. A school’s ranking can have an impact on a student’s job prospects as well as on applications and enrollment, the government noted.
“A high ranking in a prominent survey can lead to an improved reputation, which can make it easier for a business school’s graduates to find employment after graduation, which can lead to an even higher ranking, which starts the cycle again,” according to the indictment.
Undergraduate colleges, too, have gotten in trouble over the reporting of SAT and ACT scores to burnish their rankings.
Also charged in the indictment are a former Fox professor who taught statistics from 2009 to 2018 and a former finance manager for the school, for conspiring with Porat to provide U.S. News with false data. The alleged plot involved using the professor’s statistical expertise to perform regression analysis of the magazine’s rankings to figure out how much weight was given to various metrics so they could be manipulated, prosecutors say. The rankings are based on admissions selectiveness, average work experience of incoming students and postgraduate job placement.
One way Porat allegedly duped U.S. News was by lying about how many incoming online-MBA students had taken the standardized Graduate Management Admission test, or GMAT. The former dean claimed 100% of incoming students had done so, when in reality “only a small percentage” had, according to the filing.