Paul L. Caron

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More on the Declining Enrollment of Minority Law Students

Two weeks ago, I blogged Columbia Documents Declining Enrollment of Minority Law Students (1/4/08).  Next week's National Law Journal picks up the story in A Bleak Outlook for Minority Enrollment at Law Schools, by Leigh Jones:

A Web site recently established by an elite law school paints a dismal picture of enrollment among certain minority groups in law schools generally — a picture that may well become still bleaker. Enrollment of blacks and Mexican-Americans has fallen by 8.6% in the past 15 years, according to the Web site created by Columbia Law School and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT). ,,,

With law schools continuing to revere U.S. News & World Report rankings and with anti-affirmative action efforts gaining ground for possible placement on November ballots in five states, it appears that the situation may only worsen. ...

Vernellia Randall, a professor at University of Dayton School of Law and creator of the The Whitest Law School Report, published online, said that law schools, concerned about their U.S. News & World Report rankings, are requiring higher scores from applicants on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which has resulted in lower admission numbers among people from the two minority groups.

In the rankings, a school's median LSAT score is part of a larger score designed to measure a school's selectivity in choosing applicants who enter an incoming class. Selectivity accounts for 25% of a school's ranking. ... U.S. News & World Report does not include diversity as one of the factors in the rankings, but it does publish a separate ranking of law schools that have high minority enrollment numbers. Revamping the general law school ranking to include diversity as a factor would be difficult, said Robert Morse, director of data research at U.S. News & World Report. "You're likely to have 50 different standards of measurement," he said. Not only would the standard need to account for the difference in minority populations in various parts of the country, but the ranking would require a value judgment regarding which minority groups' enrollment "improved" a school, he said. ...

Marquette University Law School Dean Joseph Kearney said his school relies heavily on affirmative action to recruit minorities. Marquette was ranked eighth among Randall's latest ranking of the "Whitest Law Schools." Its student body is 89.5% white, with black enrollment equaling 2.7% and Mexican-Americans making up 0.7%, according to the 2007 ABA Official Guide to ABA Approved Law Schools. Kearney, who challenges the validity of Randall's list, attributes his school's low numbers to competition from its state competitor, University of Wisconsin Law School, which has far lower tuition and "is especially aggressive with respect to minority recruitment," he said in an e-mail message. Kearney added that the entering classes of 2005 and 2007 had 15% minority enrollment.

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