Thursday, September 25, 2008
My MoneyLaw colleague Tom Bell (Chapman) notes Michigan's new Wolverine Scholars Program -- in which Michigan undergrads with a minimum 3.80 GPA are admitted to Michigan Law School if they agree to not take the LSAT. The rankings benefit is that there is no LSAT score to report to U.S. News, while the minimum 3.80 GPA will boost Michigan's median 3.64 GPA, which counts 10% in U.S. News' methodology. Other schools presumably will follow Michigan's lead and create similar programs to recruit their undergrads while also goosing their U.S. news ranking.
The rankings motive is further corroborated by the disqualification if the potential Wolverine Scholar has taken the LSAT. ... [T]here are terrible externalities from this alleged merit-based program. It is impossible to deny that the Wolverine Scholars program will encourage students to (a) take easier classes and majors to avoid the need to take the LSAT to get into an elite law school, (b) discourage extracurriculars that will threaten the 3.8, and (c) make a lot of Michigan undergraduate professors miserable with complaints from students that their B+ or A- grade is going to blow their Wolverine Scholar application.
From a rankings perspective, what happens when you get 20, 30, or 40 candidates with 3.8+ UPGA and no LSAT score? From day 1 of admissions season, Michigan has much greater latitude to lock in higher median LSAT and UPGA numbers--because zero Wolverine Scholars are dragging down the LSAT and all are helping the UPGA numbers. Further, because of the idiosyncrasies of the USNWR rankings formula, see Ted Seto's Understanding the U.S. News Law School Rankings, at the upper ranges, small changes in UGPA have a much greater sway on rankings that a single LSAT point. For example, in the simulation model that Andy Morriss and I created, a move from 3.64 to 3.66 has a greater effect than a move from 169 to 170. If Michigan can get to a 3.80 UGPA, they could tie with NYU at #5.
Update #2: A reader let me know that Georgetown has a similar Early Assurance Program:
Early Assurance applicants are exempt from taking the LSAT and registering with the LSDAS. Instead, please include an official transcript with at least five semesters of undergraduate grades. Early Assurance applicants must submit two recommendations, one of which must be the Early Assurance Dean's Certification Form. Competitive Early Assurance applicants should have an undergraduate GPA of at least a 3.8.
Update #3: For more, see: