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

Friday, October 11, 2013

U.S. News Rankings to Continue Using Law School Expenditures, Despite ABA's Decision to Stop Collecting Data

US News (2014)Brian Leiter (Chicago) reports that despite the ABA Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar's decision at its June 7 meeting to eliminate the requirement that law schools report their expenditures to the ABA as part of the annual questionnaire (expenditures will be reported only as part of the sabbatical site visit process), U.S. News is continuing to ask law schools to report this data and presumably will keep using the data in its annual law school rankings.

Expenditures Per Student (9.75%) and Financial Aid Per Student (1.5%) are significant components of the U.S. News rankings methodology. Because these are the only data not disclosed by U.S. News, Tom Bell, Ted Seto, and others have long argued that this is where the bulk of law school chicanery occurs, With the recent tightening of placement data reporting (18% in the U.S. News methodology), most observers suspected that even more manipulation would occur in the expenditures black box. The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education's September 20 Draft Report calls for U.S. News to stop using expenditures in its rankings.  It is perverse to give schools a rankings boost for maximizing expenditures at a time of soaring tuition and student debt levels.

U.S. News' decision to continue to use expenditures in its rankings is disappointing but not surprising: Deborah Jones Merritt had previously predicted that U.S. News will continue to do "whatever it chooses to do. Years of entreaties, rants, and denunciation haven’t stopped it from incorporating expenditures into its law school ranking. I’m doubtful that the ABA’s change will suddenly bring U.S. News to its senses."

Dave Hoffman (Temple) previously estimated that eliminating the use of expenditures would produce at most a 5-10 point swing in a school's ranking.  He listed the ten schools that benefit most from the use of expenditures in the rankings:

  1. Brooklyn (#80 in the 2014 U.S. News rankings)
  2. Syracuse (#96)
  3. American (#56)
  4. Seton Hall (#64)
  5. Santa Clara (#96)
  6. Miami (#76)
  7. Penn State (#64)
  8. Yale (#1)
  9. DePaul (#109)
  10. Marquette (#94)
See also Matt Bodie (St. Louis), Rankings versus Market Share

Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink


Maybe I'm missing something, but how is the ABA possibly connected to U.S. News? And, quite frankly, how is U.S. News related to law schools?

Watching law profs lobby the ABA about U.S. News criteria is like watching Manhattan restaurants lobby the Health Inspector about Zagat's rating system.

Posted by: Bobby Dobb | Oct 11, 2013 7:51:09 AM

Bobby - you're a bit off-key. If the ABA doesn't require the information anymore, then presumably it is not a significant measure for law school rankings. Also, the numbers are so abused that it is shameful to use them -- especially now that the ABA isn't watching them. Finally, this particular factor has caused a lot of excessive spending by law schools -- increasing tuition and potentially imperiling the entire enterprise. So, if USN cares about its own future, it should probably adjust.

Posted by: tony smith | Oct 13, 2013 5:16:37 AM