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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

"ABA Committee Blasts 'U.S. News' for Rankings"

Inside Higher Ed reports:

A special committee of the American Bar Association has issued a report criticizing the impact of U.S. News & World Report rankings on law schools. The report says that the magazine's methodology "tends to increase the costs of legal education for students" because colleges are rewarded for spending more, that the rankings "discourage the award of financial aid based upon need" because law schools are rewarded for enrolling more students with high LSAT scores and so will award merit aid, and that for similar reasons "the current methodology tends to reduce incentives to enhance the diversity of the legal profession." While the report is quite critical of the rankings, it doesn't advocate a revolt. "We believe, for better or worse, U.S. News rankings will continue for the foreseeable future to dominate public perceptions of how law schools compare," it says.

Robert Morse, who leads the college rankings at U.S. News, said that the ABA never contacted the magazine to discuss the rankings, and he offered his own critique of the study. "I think the ABA report is one sided and does not tell the whole story," he said. "The ABA ignores that it's highly likely that there are other factors besides U.S. News behind rising tuitions at law schools, why law schools are offering more merit aid and that some law schools aren't accepting enough at-risk low-LSAT students. In other words, it's easy to blame U.S. News for many of the negative practices at law schools. Law schools and the ABA need to take far more direct responsibility for these trends."

I'm not sure Mr. Morse's response is all that responsive.  Sure, it strikes me as very likely that "there are other factors besides U.S. News behind rising tuitions at law schools" (e.g., students are willing to pay rising tuitions, and so law schools' tuitions rise).  But surely the U.S. News rankings and their methodology -- i.e., one that is highly responsive to changes in entering students' LSAT scores and grade-point averages -- contribute too?  (That said, we might also smile at the report's statement that the "most thorough and accurate information about law schools come from from the American Bar Association itself.").

Posted by Rick Garnett on August 4, 2010 at 09:38 AM | Permalink


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Popularity should never shadow ability or we would never have had mozart! Van Goch! Mateese!

Posted by: Mark r o'shea | Sep 2, 2010 2:50:25 PM

I always try to take US News rankings with a grain of salt, but if the rankings are actually having a negative effect on law school tuition, financial aid, and diversity, that's a serious problem and probably deserves some additional analysis.

Thanks for the post!

Posted by: Ben Buchwalter | Aug 4, 2010 4:22:11 PM

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