Accurate data entry is crucial for the success in data management. Erroneous data can result in wrong decisions and have unpredicted and serious consequences. Data entry errors can also affect the social status of an organization, as the recent incident involving Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). According to recent report, a data entry error caused FGCU to be put on top of a U.S. News listing ‘Most Debt’. The typographical data entry error for this university resulted in media receiving copies showing that FGCU graduates have the highest debt in the nation.
The U.S. News & World Report prepared the ‘Most Debt’ list considering Ivy League schools, research universities and private colleges. As per their report, among the 2013 graduates who borrowed money for school, FGCU had an average debt of $56,208, which is nearly $6,000 more than the figure of the second-highest institution across all classifications!
How the Error Occurred
An unintentional data entry error by a FGCU employee who filled out the survey to send to U.S. News was the culprit. The employee mistakenly typed $56,208, instead of $21,394 which is the correct figure.
The U.S. News and World Report on college ranking is compiled by capturing data on student debt. Rather than relying on government sources, U.S. News gets debt numbers directly from the institutions, and even verifies the data with other sources of information if they exist. U.S. News even forwards the numbers back to colleges for verification. In FGCU’s case, it’s obvious that self-reporting caused the error.
In their reports to the Florida Board of Governors, the body that administers the state university system, FGCU based its debt number on all undergraduates who borrowed, (including transfer students) as $19,538. They later sent a revised figure ($28,136) on financial aid, which also included grants and scholarships that don’t have to be repaid.
When FGCU came to know of the error, it was too late to correct the published information, though the change has been made on the U.S. News website.
Printed guidebooks and PDF documents that were already distributed could not be corrected. There is no accurate information on the number of printed copies that were distributed and how many journalists have accessed embargoed materials online.
Errors in data entry can happen due to a lot of reasons like misplacement of numbers, entering words in place of numbers, entering ‘o’ in place of 0, transposition errors and so on. When a huge volume of data is involved, errors in entry can be avoided by assigning the task to professionals.