Monday, May 4, 2009
Several readers noted the curious fact that 64 law schools did not supply U.S. News with the percentage of its Class of 2007 that was employed at graduation; this component counts 4% in the methodology used in the 2010 Law School Rankings. One commenter explained:
According to U.S. News, when a school does not report this number, 30% is subtracted from the nine month employment number (i.e., for a school that reports a 95% employed at 9 months number, U.S. News will plug the graduation number with 65%).
Pepperdine [led] the way on this scheme in recent years, and it looks like a lot of schools have jumped on the band wagon, which presumably means that for schools who reported this figure last year, but are "N/A" this year, the real number was more than 30% lower than their 9 month number, so they chose not to report the at graduation number (by the way, US News has to use a plug because this is one data area that the ABA doesn't collect, so US News can't obtain it if the school doesn't report it).
See also Theodore Seto, Understanding the U.S. News Law School Rankings, 60 SMU L. Rev. 493, 500 (2007).
A more interesting question is why 23 law schools reported employed at graduation numbers more than 30% lower than their employed at nine months number:
Many of these schools undoubtedly adversely affected their overall ranking by reporting their employed at graduation data. As Ted Seto explains in his article, because U.S. News uses round numbers in determining a school's overall score, the 4% weighting of the employed at graduation data easily could impact a school's overall ranking -- i.e. a school whose overall score ended in .49 would move up to the next grouping with an increase in its overall score of merely .01. Ted also explains that an increase of 22 percentage points in the employed at graduation figure would have improved a school's overall score by one full point (in the 2007 rankings) -- which Arkansas-Little Rock could have achieved by declining to disclose its 44.2% figure and instead allowing U.S. News to assign it a 68.0% figure.
With the close clustering of schools ranked 65 (six schools), 71 (4 schools), 77 (8 schools), 87 (7 schools), and 98 (2 schools), Baylor, Louisville, Missouri-Columbia, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Seattle, South Carolina, and Temple may have improved their rank within the Top 100 by declining to disclose their employed at graduation data. Depending on their overall score, one or more of the schools in Tier 3 (Arkansas-Little Rock, Loyola-New Orleans, Mercer,U. Mississippi, Samford, South Dakota, William Mitchell) might have cracked the Top 100, and one or more of the schools in Tier 4 (Campbell, Mississippi College, New England, Northern Illinois, Tulsa, Valparaiso, Whittier) might have found themselves in Tier 3, by not disclosing their true employed at graduation data and instead allowing U.S. News to use its surrogate figure.
Update: Thanks to an alert reader, I removed from the chart one school that was incorrectly listed as having an employed at graduation number more than 30% lower than its employed at nine months number.