Paul L. Caron

Monday, July 14, 2008

Henderson: The Data Behind the Part-Time Law Student Rankings Loophole

I previously blogged (here, here, here, here, and here) the announcement (here and here) by Robert Morse, Director of Data Research at U.S. News & World Report, that the magazine is considering counting both full-time and part-time entering student admission data for the median LSAT score and median undergraduate GPA ranking categories.  Bill Henderson (Indiana) lays out the data today in How has the Part-Time "Loophole" Affected Part- and Full-Time Enrollment? The Data, showing that the number of part time law students has increased by 1,343 (23.3%) while the number of full-time law students fell by 185 students from fall 1991 to fall 2006 at the 174 law schools fully accredited by the ABA during this period:

Let's not kid ourselves. Quite a few students have been shunted into PT programs so a school could drive up its US News numbers. ...  Whatever the ranking methodology, a large number of law schools are going to make resource allocation decisions based on rankings. If Bob Morse changes the methodology to get rid of the part-time loophole, we can expect many law schools to throw their part-time students overboard -- that is a fact, and it is not Bob Morse's fault. In this US News conundrum, both people and our alleged principles are guaranteed to get hurt.

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We are all responsible for the consequences of our actions. If, as a result of the proposed change in method, part-time legal education ceases to be widely available, Bob Morse must accept his share of responsibility. In this regard, I disagree with Bill. US News is currently a monopolist, with monopoly power. Historically, when monopolists are perceived to use their power for ill, they are assigned far greater responsibility for their actions than players in a competitive market.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Jul 14, 2008 3:22:37 PM


The elimination of part-time programs will only happen if the USNWR monopoly continues. Keep in mind that WE are a self-regulating monopoly--the ABA Section on Legal Education sets the rules, and it is comprised mostly of law professors. The ABA Section on Legal Education can end the USNWR monopoly in a minute if it takes the steps to provide the market with better information: detailed and reliable jobs data, salary information, interviews/callback rates, bar passage controlling for entering credentials, etc. US News is a mere proxy for this information.

Bob Morse has power because the self-regulatory body that presides over law schools does not want to make decisions that adversely affect law schools. The economics here are all basic Public Choice 101.

Posted by: Bill Henderson | Jul 14, 2008 7:43:13 PM