Paul L. Caron

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Adler: LST's Flawed Cost of Law School Data

Law School Transparency 2Following up on Tuesday's post, Average Cost of Law School for Entering 1L Class: $195,000:  The Volokh Conspiracy, Misreporting the Costs of Going to (Some) Law Schools, by Jonathan H. Adler (Case Western):

Some of the numbers are quite revealing — and some of the numbers are quite wrong. In a quick review of the numbers for a handful of schools, I’ve found substantial under-reporting of cost-of-living estimates. ...

I contacted the folks at Law School Transparency to ask about the problems with their data. They said they relied upon data provided to U.S. News, and pledged to do more research so that they could provide more accurate numbers (numbers which should be up shortly, perhaps later tonight). The faulty data, they argue, is further evidence of how law schools misreport to U.S. News and highlights the need for more standardized and complete reporting. Fair enough. Yet the whole point of their site, as I understand it, is to give law school “consumers” access to more complete and accurate information than they are getting from U.S. News and law schools themselves. Further, some of these numbers — such as the CUNY cost-of-living figure — should have been dead giveaways that something was wrong. ...

[T]he folks at Law School Transparency were quite responsive when I pointed out these errors. They pledged to double-check the numbers and post corrections as soon as possible. This is all to the good, but this is also work that should have been done before trumpeting the data to prospective law students and the press. Some numbers, such as CUNY’s $7,425 cost of living estimate or the $10K spread in living costs across schools in Chicago, should have been red flags that something was amiss. At the very least, it should have been obvious that the cost-of-living numbers they decided to post were not apples-to-apples comparisons. Law schools deserve criticism for their relative lack of transparency, as does U.S. News insofar as it publishes inaccurate information or presents a misleading picture of specific schools. But the self-appointed watchmen of law school transparency should be held to a high standard as well, and need to be more careful about presenting false or misleading information themselves, whatever the source.

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