Stanford’s elite business school caught cheating — by one of its own MBA students

Given that it costs $140,000 in tuition alone for a Stanford business school MBA degree, it’s not surprising that half the students receive fellowship grants.

And the school has for years been touting its egalitarian generosity, making it clear that the grants go to those who might otherwise be unable to attend, or who might be forced — against school recommendations — to work part-time during the MBA program.

” All fellowships are need-based,” says promotional material from the Graduate School of Business.

“It’s important to understand that we do not negotiate fellowship amounts or eligibility.”

Get tech news in your inbox weekday mornings. Sign up for the free Good Morning Silicon Valley newsletter.

But now, thanks to a huge breach of students’ personal financial data, the school has been caught cheating — by one of its own.

In February, MBA student Adam Allcock discovered 14 terabytes of confidential student data from financial aid applications, according to a new report. Later that month, Allcock reported the breach to the school’s financial aid director, and the records were removed within an hour, the report said.

However, Allcock had dug deeply into the data, spending 1,500 hours analyzing it and putting together a 378-page report, according to Poets&Quants, a website covering business school news.

Allcock’s c0nclusion? The Graduate School of Business has not been honest with students, in fact has been “lying to their faces” for more than a decade.

Rather than being need-based, the fellowship grants were used to rank students according to their value to the school, Allcock determined.

“Allcock found that Stanford had routinely granted fellowship money to students without regard to their financial needs, often favoring admits who were female and those from the financial sector, even though many had more savings than students who received no scholarship help or less financial support,” Poets&Quants reported.

The student investigator — a former Google account management intern and founder of a consulting firm in the UK, according to his LinkedIn proile — also found what he called “systemic biases” against international students.

Stanford’s business school, consistently ranked at or near the top for elite MBA programs, has been “systematically discriminating” on the basis of gender and international status, Allcock said in his report, which was obtained by Poets&Quants.

What’s behind this apparent deception? Poets&Quants editor-in-chief John Byrne, former editor-in-chief of and Fast Company, noted in the article that business schools have been pushing to get more women into MBA programs.

Also, the number of domestic candidates for full-time MBA programs has been sliding for several years, “so it would make sense for a school, even Stanford, to dangle higher fellowship awards to those admits to get the best of them to go to Stanford.”

The focus on students with backgrounds in finance “suggests an admissions strategy that helps the school achieve the highest starting compensation packages of any MBA program in the world,” Byrne wrote. “Last year the median pay for the 12 percent of the students that went into private equity was a class-high $177,500, well above the overall median of $136,000.

“Venture capital firms, which hired 7 percent of last year’s Stanford crop, paid median starting salaries of $167,500.”

The school’s dean, Jon Levin, admitted in a message to students that the bits in the school’s promotional materials about not negotiating fellowship amounts or eligibility, and that all fellowship grants were need based, were not exactly true.

“The school has offered additional fellowship awards to candidates whose biographies make them particularly compelling and competitive in trying to attract a diverse class,” Levin wrote in the Nov. 17 message.

The difference between what the school says it does and what it was caught doing is “an issue we intend to address,” Levin wrote.

The data breach arose because information had been “improperly stored in a shared folder that was accessible to all Stanford GSB faculty, staff, and students,” but the data were anonymized so students’ names were not exposed, he wrote.

The financial aid data had been accessible starting in June 2016, he wrote. The school has hired a data forensics company to “examine what other files might have been improperly stored and accessible over time,” he wrote.

“There is no excuse for this compromise of privacy and security, and I intend to do everything possible to ensure that it does not happen in the future,” Levin wrote.

He also promised “significantly more” transparency about the school’s financial aid awards.


Photo: A Stanford University student walks in front of Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus in 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)


Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Share this Post

  • donkeyslobber

    hidden agendas in the corporate financial world? the biggest of all bubbles? venture cannibalists? what’s next for tech driven military industrial expansion in the bay area? oh, go eat your cheerios.

  • Petrich Petkov