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Massive Financial Aid Data Breach Proves Stanford Lied For Years To MBAs (poetsandquants.com) 116

14 terabytes of "highly confidential" data about 5,120 financial aid applications over seven years were exposed in a breach at Stanford's Graduate School of Business -- proving that the school "misled thousands of applicants and donors about the way it distributes fellowship aid and financial assistance to its MBA students," reports Poets&Quants. The information was unearthed by a current MBA student, Adam Allcock, in February of this year from a shared network directory accessible to any student, faculty member or staffer of the business school. In the same month, on Feb. 23, the student reported the breach to Jack Edwards, director of financial aid, and the records were removed within an hour of his meeting with Edwards. Allcock, however, says he spent 1,500 hours analyzing the data and compiling an 88-page report on it...

Allcock's discovery that more money is being used by Stanford to entice the best students with financial backgrounds suggests an admissions strategy that helps the school achieve the highest starting compensation packages of any MBA program in the world. That is largely because prior work experience in finance is generally required to land jobs in the most lucrative finance fields in private equity, venture capital and hedge funds.

Half the school's students are awarded financial aid, and though Stanford always insisted it was awarded based only on need, the report concluded the school had been "lying to their faces" for more than a decade, also identifying evidece of "systemic biases against international students."

Besides the embarrassing exposure of their financial aid policies, there's another obvious lesson, writes Slashdot reader twentysixV. "It's actually way too easy for users to improperly secure their files in a shared file system, especially if the users aren't particularly familiar with security settings." Especially since Friday the university also reported another university-wide file-sharing platform had exposed "a variety of information from several campus offices, including Clery Act reports of sexual violence and some confidential student disciplinary information from six to 10 years ago."

Massive Financial Aid Data Breach Proves Stanford Lied For Years To MBAs

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  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @12:01AM (#55666641) Homepage Journal

    Interesting, but good luck ever getting a job as a known leaker.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He was never going to get a job in this day and age of sexual harassment with a last name like that anyway...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      He's a perfect worker for finance. He clearly has no loyalty. He goes straight for the payout without any consideration of the thought he's an asshole or it might look "bad". And he did it all in MBA style.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So what you're saying is that every company does unethical things they don't want leaked eh? If like to think that there's companies which would appreciate taking a stand against that kind of thing, but I know I'm hopelessly naive.

    • before that, he can kiss goodbye to his MBA.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I thought it was telling when he did research on the data, and released a paper. That's initiative right there.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      He didn't leak the data. He analyzed it, compiled a report, and presented the report TO THE UNIVERSITY, and even agreed not to release it. His actual report has not been made public to the press, and it was the university that acknowledged it.

      The university's lax file management leaked the data which made his analysis possible.

      In all, I thought this showed extreme professionalism on Allcock's part. Besides exposing the unethical practices of Stanford GSB, which were impairing himself and had impaired studen

  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @12:14AM (#55666667)

    There might be a more selfish reason for this. If they're looking for rich alumni who can feed money back into the program some years down the road, they'll want to funnel as many of them as they can into private equity, venture capital and hedge funds after graduation.

    • by fubarrr ( 884157 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @01:26AM (#55666817)

      And this is not much different from pretty much all other business schools with any much big name.

      I'm Russian, from a top 1% family in Russia. I studied in an average college in Canada on my own volition, against wishes of my clueless parents who wanted to bang big money away on a business school. It took a lot of efforts for me to convince them that "big name business school" is a waste of money if you go there for actual skills and knowledge in the best case, and a disaster when you simply gave money away to small time fraudsters in the worst.

      I know personally two other Russians few years older than me who went for Harvard MBA, and now spill bitter tears for spending a big portion of their family fortune for, at best, laughably mediocre education for such price.

      And even in the mid-tier college I was going to, I saw that very few people who were getting not even a scholarship, but a "income supplement stipend," usually given to low income students, being given to another Russian guy who was always dressed expensively and casually wore $2000 watch and few other surprisingly well off people.

      I instantly understood that they do it in anticipation that if this guy will work in his father's company and earn big buck, they can proudly put his testament and his salary on their graduate outcomes statistics.

      • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @04:23AM (#55667129) Homepage
        The Harvard MBA opens doors that would be forever closed to you with a Master's degree from State U. That's the value of Harvard, the ruling class sees it and immediately knows you're one of their own, not The Other. [slatestarcodex.com] Middle class values education, ruling class values connections.
        • Middle class values education, ruling class values connections.

          People keep making the mistake of believing that the world is a meritocracy, but it ain't. It's an insiders' club. If you're not good at schmoozing, though, you have no choice but to get by on competence, which is frankly a lot harder than doing it the other way. You know, with bullshit.

        • The Harvard MBA opens doors that would be forever closed to you with a Master's degree from State U.

          It is a big help to get that first job. From there on out it is up to the individual. I've worked with many shakers and movers that graduated from Obscure U.

          Some times I think the Harvard or nothing meme is just something made up for failures to feel good about. They didn't succeed because they didn't go to X school.

      • by epine ( 68316 )

        Sign me up for a $200,000 degree in figuring out that you've just been ripped off.

        Passing grades are awarded to any student that sports a purple, palm-shaped dent in their own forehead at some point during the program.

        The school doesn't even bother to grade your assignments (except to assure that you never enjoyed a free moment). Everyone must be kept busy enough so as not to puncture the fourth wall for any student who has yet to achieve his or her own personal enlightenment.

        I instantly understood that the

    • by pots ( 5047349 )
      Might? Isn't this implied by the summary? There is no unselfish reason for this.

      The summary says, "helps the school achieve the highest starting compensation packages of any MBA program," and I guess an uncritical reader might interpret that as being beneficial for the students, but those students are getting high compensation packages because of their previous experience. There are basically two reasons why schools want "the best students" - a famous student or alumni can increase the prestige of the sc
  • So the "controversy" here is that Stanford is using financial aid to attract the most intelligent kids to the university?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 03, 2017 @12:21AM (#55666685)

      No, it is that they lie about it to attract students. The other famous MBA schools do not lie about it.

    • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @12:58AM (#55666739)

      Half the school's students are awarded financial aid, and though Stanford always insisted it was awarded based only on need, the report concluded the school had been "lying to their faces" for more than a decade, also identifying evidece of "systemic biases against international students."

      Telling people they are extra special snowflakes and lying about granting financial aid is unethical and may be illegal. A school that routinely lies to it's students might even risk loosing accreditation. A class action law suit is inevitable.

      Overt discrimination by a educational institution is illegal under federal law. The MBA program faces fines, loss of federal funding and criminal charges for individuals and the program as a whole. It is possible that Stanford may have to end their MBA program. The academic reputation of the entire University is now at risk. There will be a mass exit of anyone in the chain of command above the business school. Even regents may be forced off the board.

      You question is as stupid and vile as you are. I can only assume that you think it is acceptable to steal from old people and children. How many puppies did you stomp on this week?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What world do you live in where wealthy white collar criminals are held accountable? That is not the US I know.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          What world do you live in where wealthy white collar criminals are held accountable? That is not the US I know.

          Depends. Remember ENRON? They got busted, the case was also basically tossed because the prosecuting attorney turned it into a gigantic shitshow and lied. Those white collar criminals are held to account, occasionally but it has to have actual "human impact" in most cases i.e. someone has to directly die because of their action or in-action. There are rarer cases, like in Iceland where they threw bankers into prison over the mortgage crash, the same happened in Canada with realtors and bankers being toss

      • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @02:23AM (#55666915) Journal

        The academic reputation of the entire University is now at risk.

        No, it's not. Business schools like Stanford's are run like little fiefdoms. Nobody's going to decide not to go to Stanford for Physics because the MBAs are crooked.

        Here's a little secret: MBAs have always been crooked. They're basically certification for liars. They're institutions where the most corrupt groom potential future corrupt people the way pedophiles groom third-graders. People who believe that Humanities departments at universities are the most politicized places in higher education have never looked into what goes on at a top-tier business school.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Nope. They pay the most experienced students to come, and claim to pay based on need, not merit.

      The starting pay more closely correlates with previous experience, so paying the most experienced to come distorts the starting pay used to advertise the school to other prospective students.
    • by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday December 03, 2017 @06:32AM (#55667331)

      "So the "controversy" here is that Stanford is using financial aid to attract the most intelligent kids to the university?"

      No, they're using financial intelligence to aid them attracting the most rich kids.

  • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @01:15AM (#55666793) Homepage Journal

    14TB.

    5120 applications.

    So, 2700 megabytes per applicant.

    Was this data stored as 5 minutes of uncompressed video of each page or something?

    Wait, wait, I know, applications were stored as a scanned, multi-page TIFF, wasn't it?

    • Data speed? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The other part people missed is he has a connection fast enough to deal with 14 terabytes.

    • Data *about* applications, not necessarily just the applications themselves. It would be interesting to know what all this data entailed.
    • My guess is someone fucked up the units. You'd need a drive array just to store the damn thing. 14GB sounds more reasonable.

  • Tough shit. Turnabout is fair play.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's actually way too easy for users to improperly secure their files in a shared file system, especially if the users aren't particularly familiar with security settings

    Really? Sounds like IT incompetence to me. When I worked at $MEGACORP, every shared file system was assigned two groups by default - one with read access, one with read/write. The file system owner (just regular users) simply add/remove users from these groups. Not in the groups? No access. They even had a web interface to do this, so even the dumbest of secretaries easily knew how to maintain tight control of file system permissions. Filesystems were regularly scanned for Public/Everyone permissions and t

    • by Anonymous Coward

      IT wanted better security but the MBAs running the project fucked them

  • 1500 hours! (Score:2, Insightful)

    He has spent on analysing this data 1500 hours?! Since February?! Working on the same data set over 5 hours per day during the last 10 months?! To write a 88 pages report?! While studying said MBA at said University?! I cannot think of many positive conclusions from any of that for either the person or the university/degree.

    That statement seems to indicate that either that guy is lying and/or his proceeding/knowledge is highly inefficient (not knowing how to automate the analysis/to do what a MBA-holder us
    • Re:1500 hours! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @04:26AM (#55667133) Homepage
      So instead of digesting this shocking information about a very prominent institution being caught red-handed in a gigantic lie, you attack the messenger. That's a pretty clever deflection, do you work as a journalist as your full-time job?
      • So instead of digesting this shocking information about a very prominent institution being caught red-handed in a gigantic lie, you attack the messenger.

        My comment isn't precisely focusing on the most important aspect of this article. You are right. In fact, I do think that all the actions contributing towards minimising dishonest/nepotist behaviours are very positive and, in that sense, I am grateful to that guy as a human being and a citizen of the world. On the other hand, I don't know/care too much about MBAs/Standford, these problems aren't even related to my country (Spain), social status (poor enough to not even dream about studying for a MBA at Stan

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Well, you should consider journalism because you're very good at it. You totally changed the subject and in a very effective way. They can make good use of people like you.
          • Well, you should consider journalism because you're very good at it. You totally changed the subject and in a very effective way. They can make good use of people like you.

            LOL. Thanks, but I think that you are mixing up journalism with partiality and manipulation, what is usually seen as bad journalism. I am very happy in my world of only caring about technical aspects/objectivity and will never move to something like journalism. But even in the unrealistic eventuality of becoming a journalist, I would bring all my principles with me; so, your assumptions wouldn't be applicable to myself even in that unrealistic scenario.

            Being a journalist isn't a requirement to be partial/d

      • by Archon ( 13753 )

        I immediately came to the same conclusions as CustomSolvers2. It's called having an active bullshit detector.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You clearly have not studied anything at any level of detail to make your knowledge worthwhile. I bet you think all knowledge can be fed to you in tweets.

      • have not studied anything at any level of detail to make your knowledge worthwhile

        I am not sure if I get your point there, but I do have 2 university degrees (+ studied for a third one which didn't finished for practical reasons) and +8 years of professional engineering/software development experience under quite demanding conditions with a major focus on R&D and systematically extending my knowledge. I have also met quite a few MBA holders and seen (even suffered) what they do with their knowledge. I have even met some individuals without MBAs having really weird ideas about the exa

    • I'm certain that the data was in an easy to read format, tailored perfectly for him to write his report. /s

      If it took 15 minutes to process each financial aid application and get the relevant data (age, race, sex, location of origin, economic background, acceptance status), that would be 1280 hours. (At 17.6 minutes, you reach 1500 hours). There were probably other data points on the applications that he initially had to take into considering and then ultimately rule out.
      • If it took 15 minutes to process each financial aid application and get the relevant data (age, race, sex, location of origin, economic background, acceptance status), that would be 1280 hours.

        OK. Let's assume that, for the first 10 records, he needed an average time of 15 minutes per application (quite slow already). Let's also assume that the format was extremely incompatible with pure automation. Are you saying me that once you have retrieved the few values you need by following whatever format (e.g., first line in page 1, third and fifth lines in page 4, etc.), you would need 15 minutes to do it over and over again?! Seriously? Well, I certainly don't need that much time. You can give me an a

        • by PPH ( 736903 )

          To be fair, it was probably in some Microsoft Office format.

          • it was probably in some Microsoft Office format.

            In that case, I would do everything manually! Installing Windows just to avoid a bit of healthy repetitive work? Never! LOL. Seriously, if this is true, then the automation would have been extremely easy. You might even rely on different approaches: VBA macros, in-built communication of .NET languages or even non .NET languages by relying on some library or Microsoft interfaces (not sure on this front; I guess that some COM/OLE reliance). Although quite a few of Microsoft's own formats aren't too compatible

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @07:09AM (#55667387)

    The much more spectacular one would have been "MBA student that can analyze data found".

  • by Shadow of Eternity ( 795165 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @08:04AM (#55667479)

    The data also showed that female students were significantly more likely to have money thrown at them than men in identical financial circumstances. And men are already a disadvantaged minority in the entire education system, let alone by the time they get to university.

    • by Cederic ( 9623 )

      Yeah, I think a Title IX lawsuit is appropriate here. Lets hope someone with standing decides to make life expensive for Stanford.

  • The post why selection bias is the most powerful force in education [fredrikdeboer.com] describes what's happening here, and it's not about educating students, sadly.

  • by guygo ( 894298 ) on Sunday December 03, 2017 @11:48AM (#55668201)
    So the school that teaches MBAs how to cheat everybody is a cheater. Big surprise there.
  • Reminds me of a story that I've read a few times in my life - I'm curious if anyone else here has heard about it. The story goes that a university was working out a list of which students would be granted scholarships. A senior official had a list of the top students that would then be further reduced to the top half who would then get the scholarships. The story goes that the list of the half of the students that failed the final selection was accidently used to grant the scholarships. By the time the erro

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