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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Feminist Perspective on the Proposed U.S. News Rankings Change

I previously blogged (here, here, and here) the announcement (here and here) by Robert Morse, Director of Data Research at U.S. News & World Report, that the magazine is "seriously studying" two changes to its law school rankings methodology that would affect 24.5% of the overall ranking:

  • Counting both full-time and part-time entering student admission data for the median LSAT score (12.5% of ranking) and median undergraduate GPA (10%) ranking categories.
  • Compute the bar passage rate (2%) (school's bar pass rate/jurisdiction's bar passage rate) using only the data of first-time takers who are graduates of ABA-accredited schools.

Ann Bartow (South Carolina) offers a feminist perspective in Law School Rankings By USNews: Does Cheating Benefit or Harm Women?:

If US News starts counting the LSATs of part time and transfer students, currently cheating law schools have to choose between tuition and rankings. The schools that choose ranking concerns over tuition receipts will admit fewer people with lower LSAT scores, who are likely to be disproportionately older, poorer, female, and/or People of Color. The schools that choose tuition will admit these students into their full time first year classes, treating them like everybody else, rather than as second class citizens. So whether this change helps or hurts women (and other affected groups) is going to depend on how many law students prioritize tuition, and perhaps also value the increased diversity of their first year classes that will likely result from accepting students with somewhat lower LSAT scores.

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The problem is that except for a very few specialized classes law schools tend to teach exactly the same thing but those which are harder to get into are considered better. Therefore the few lower-scoring students who do get into schools which favor rankings will benefit, in a sense, from the exclusion of most of the others.

Posted by: Anonymous | Jul 7, 2008 7:33:25 AM