In a letter to students last week, the president of Scripps College admitted that the school had misreported the debt levels of graduating students for the last decade.
Lori Bettison-Varga, president of the college since 2009, informed students and adminsitrators that Scripps had been sending incomplete information about the college's average student loan debt to the Common Data Set Initiative for at least 10 years.
The CDS was formed by the partnership between the College Board, Peterson's and U.S. World News & Report to "improve the quality and accuracy of information provided to all involved in a student's transition into higher education," according to the CDS website.
According to Bettison-Varga's letter, which was first published on The Claremontian's website, Scripps had only been sending information about the cumulative averages of need-based loan debt, when it should have been sending the loan debt of all students who had financial aid.
Bettison-Varga said in the letter that the college had hired legal teams to investigate why the loan data was misreported for so long.
"The integrity of Scripps College is at the heart of the education and experience we offer our students," Bettison-Varga wrote.
"In an effort to ensure that all public statistics are correctly reported, we are working diligently and expeditiously to provide the CDS with accurate cumulative average loan debt numbers."
Marylou Ferry, a spokesperson for Scripps, said the president wanted to release the letter because she had a "history of being very transparent and candid with the community.
Read Bettison-Varga's entire letter below:
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 expeditiously 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.