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Monday, July 7, 2014

Hastings Dean Fights Dive in U.S. News Law School Rankings

UC-Hastings Logo 3The Recorder:  UC-Hastings Dean Fights Rankings Dive:

Frank Wu is ready. He's got visual aids, the assistance of a research analyst, and a laptop that's booted and flipped open. His sleeves are rolled up and he's set to talk rankings. It's a presentation the dean of UC-Hastings College of the Law has given before.

Wu is trying to pull Hastings out of a yearslong dive in the rankings. The school was ranked 19th by U.S. News and World Report in 1992, and 42nd when Wu arrived in 2010. This year, after it slipped to 54 from 48, Wu wrote to reassure students and alumni that despite getting clobbered by the bleak hiring climate, UC-Hastings remains among the top law schools in the nation. ...

Like most deans, Wu has plenty of gripes about the rankings, but says he can't afford to ignore them. "Prospective students care. Our faculty care, staff care, alumni care, I care. Our board cares. If I stood up and said, 'I don't care about U.S. News. I'm going to pay no attention to U.S. News,' if I used obscenity and other inappropriate language, I would be removed of my responsibilities," he said. "So, U.S. News is a looming presence, and to rail against it is futile." ...

[T]he school's tumble in the rankings has created an opening for critics. Wu's a talker more than a listener and his in-your-face style is not always welcome. ...

The dean is also taking heat from graduates unhappy with the school's downward trajectory in the U.S. News rankings. "There isn't a day that goes by when I don't go out and have some alum berate me," Wu said. ...

In 2012, UC-Hastings reduced its incoming class by nearly 100 students. To cover the loss of tuition revenue, Wu cut the equivalent of 23 full-time staff positions. The school also raised in-state tuition nearly 30 percent between 2010 and 2012. Since then, it has remained roughly unchanged at approximately $48,000, and Wu is pushing hard to raise revenue through fundraising, bringing in about $6 million in the 2012 fiscal year.

"Some credit is due for keeping tuition flat," said Kyle McEntee, executive director of the nonprofit Law School Transparency. However, McEntee notes that holding "really high" tuition stable isn't exactly a win for students. California law schools such as UC-Irvine, Pepperdine University, Santa Clara University and the University of San Diego have done a better job of controlling tuition, he said.

[T]he biggest drag on Hastings' rank is student employment rates. U.S. News weighs the percent of grads employed in full-time, permanent jobs for which a law degree is a requirement or an advantage. Only 47 percent of last year's Hastings grads could claim that distinction.

Wu has joined with other California law school deans in demanding U.S. News change its methodology, which they say penalizes schools in states with high overall unemployment.

Chapman Dean: U.S. News Rankings Methodology Penalizes Most California Law Schools:

U.S. News 2015Following up on yesterday's post, Deans Say Rankings Penalize California Law Schools for Bad Economy; U.S. News Rejects Call for State-Adjusted Employment Data:  Tom Campbell (Dean, Chapman) has asked me to post his letter to the editor of The Recorder, U.S. News Methodology Penalizes Most California Law Schools, on TaxProf Blog:

Your article Deans Say U.S. News Rankings Penalize Schools in the Golden State reported the unanimous position of the California law school deans, who agree that California’s poor employment prospects are a drag on the rankings at all 21 accredited California law schools – even though they are no fault of the California law schools or their students. Put simply, if a law school in Iowa, where unemployment is 4.2%, places 85% of its students, and a law school in California, where unemployment is 8.3%, places 84% of its students, U.S. News ranks the Iowa school ahead of the California school. That is nonsense, if the purpose is to rank the quality of the two law schools. ...

Let’s look at the top 10 ranked law schools in California, U.S. News Methodology Penalizes Most California Law Schools, over the last three years:

#4 USC, dropped 2 positions in the national rankings;
#5 UC Davis dropped 13 positions in the national rankings;
#6 UC Hastings dropped 12 positions in the national rankings;
#8 Loyola dropped 33 positions in the national rankings;
#9 UC San Diego dropped 12 positions in the national rankings; and
#10 Santa Clara dropped 23 positions in the national rankings.

The other four top-ten California schools [#1 Stanford, #2 UC-Berkeley, #3 UCLA, #7 Pepperdine] stayed the same in the national rankings.

The “California effect” on our rankings has nothing to do with the quality of education our schools provide. So we proposed to U.S. News to normalize the employment data on law schools the same way they do for differing state bar passage percentages. If a law school’s graduates pass their state bar at a 70% level, that means something different about the law school’s quality if the overall state bar passage is 80%, or if it is 60%. So, U.S. News normalizes for the bar passage rate of the state. They should do the same for employment. Otherwise, law students in entire states like California will be penalized in the rankings not because a lack of quality of their training, but instead due to economic factors beyond their control.

Below I share the full chart showing the significant U.S. News rankings downtrend in California. May I kindly ask that you share this chart and my comments here with your readers?

School

Name

2012

Rank

2013

Rank

2014

Rank

2015

Rank

1 Year

Change

3 Year

Change

Stanford

3

2

2

3

-1

0

UC- Berkeley

9

7

9

9

0

0

UCLA

16

15

17

16

+1

0

USC

18

18

18

20

-2

-2

UC-Davis

23

29

38

36

+2

-13

UC-Hastings

42

44

48

54

-6

-12

Pepperdine

54

49

61

54

+7

0

Loyola-L.A.

54

51

68

87

-19

-33

San Diego

67

65

68

79

-11

-12

Santa  Clara

84

96

96

107

-11

-23

Chapman

104

110

126

140

-14

-36

McGeorge

100

101

124

146

-22

-46

San Francisco

100

106

144

Tier 2

-2 +

-46+

Cal Western

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Golden Gate

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Southwestern

121

129

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

-25+

T. Jefferson

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Western State

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

Whittier

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

Tier 2

n/a

n/a

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/07/hastings-dean-fights-dive.html

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Comments

"However, McEntee notes that holding "really high" tuition stable isn't exactly a win for students. California law schools such as UC-Irvine, Pepperdine University, Santa Clara University and the University of San Diego have done a better job of controlling tuition, he said."

Congratulations to UC Irvine for controlling tuition so that it is only $48,000 instate and $53,000 out of state for 2013-2014.

Posted by: Sar Casm | Jul 7, 2014 1:41:27 PM

Dean of Chapman: "Put simply, if a law school in Iowa, where unemployment is 4.2%, places 85% of its students, and a law school in California, where unemployment is 8.3%, places 84% of its students, U.S. News ranks the Iowa school ahead of the California school. That is nonsense, if the purpose is to rank the quality of the two law schools. ..."

Reality -- Chapman places only 48% of its graduates (as US News counts them), so it is not being penalized for having an 84% placement rate, it is being penalized for having a 48% placement rate, which seems appropriate for students looking at the rankings and trying to figure out where they want to go to school.

Posted by: Sar Casm | Jul 7, 2014 2:07:16 PM

Not to be a jerk, but where was California's concern when it benefited them but this weighing mechanism went against poorer states (West Virginia, Kansas, etc) that have never had great economies? The quality of education in those states have always been judged by this rubric, and yet it is only NOW that it is unfair? I call shenanigans...

Posted by: LM | Jul 7, 2014 2:55:37 PM

LOL at awful legal employment being "no fault of the California law schools." As if their job was to prepare graduates for employment?

Posted by: Joseph Henchman | Jul 7, 2014 2:56:36 PM

There is no law school at UC San Diego. There is one, however, at the University of San Diego. I will give Dean Campbell the benefit of the doubt and assume that this error was created between his post and publication. That's right, isn't it?

Posted by: dan rodriguez | Jul 7, 2014 3:09:12 PM

To comment #1:

I was misquoted. Here is the last thing I wrote to the author of The Record piece:

"I think it's more that it isn't really much different in (very) high price than all of the UC's, except for Irvine which is slightly less in total tuition and fees, and Pepperdine, Santa Clara, and San Diego. The latter three are all slightly less expensive too.

The important takeaway is that none of these schools are really priced all that differently on the surface."

Posted by: Kyle McEntee | Jul 7, 2014 3:31:09 PM

What a farce. These academic thieves have been peddling useless degrees to get student loan cash for years. Close these law schools down now!

Posted by: Hoxton | Jul 7, 2014 7:00:37 PM

It's not worth paying so much attention to US News in the first place. Adjusting for state economic conditions is too trivial a change to make it any more worth paying attention to.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Jul 7, 2014 8:01:32 PM

"It's not worth paying so much attention to US News in the first place. "

It's worth pointing out here that Eric Rasmusen is not an attorney (I think he's a biz school prof) and therefore has no firsthand experience of how legal hiring operates. I'll try to translate for him: saying that US News rankings have no role in legal hiring is like saying that the undergrad rankings have no role in hiring on Wall Street or at MBB.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 7, 2014 10:15:25 PM

Whatever the reason--if students are less likely to find employment in California, they should be made aware of the fact. A 48% placement rate makes Hastings less valuable to prospective students. Does it matter whether the cause is out of the college's control?

Posted by: Non0non | Jul 8, 2014 6:46:35 AM

A school's placement rate should directly impact their ranking. If law schools operated in a market driven manner, then this should drive them to more actively assist students in getting placements. Of course, if your school is only a cash cow and not really delivering good and useful legal knowledge to students, I can understand why you would not want to actively get them into the public eye and risk embarrassment.

Posted by: Daniel | Jul 8, 2014 11:17:29 AM

So basically you've got a more than even chance of being financially destroyed by this law school. Stop the federal loan funds - close it now.

Posted by: Hoxton | Jul 8, 2014 9:02:56 PM

A far more destructive consequence to U.S. News rankings is the over reliance on the LSAT score and the first undergraduate GPA. That information is not a panacea. It's a data point. But it's not much more predicative of a person's success in law than the flip of a coin according to LSAC's own data.

Posted by: Mark P. Yablon | Jul 8, 2014 11:52:08 PM