Paul L. Caron

Monday, March 22, 2021

The New U.S. News Law School Rankings Methodology: Implications And Predictions

Following up on my previous post, 2022 U.S. News Law School Rankings:  Mike Spivey (Spivey Consulting), Understanding and Implications of the New USNWR Law School Rankings Methodology:

US News Logo 2For the first time in years, U.S. News & World Report has changed their law school ranking methodology. Starting this year, the metrics will include a new factor: graduate debt. This new factor will be assigned a 5% overall weight. The metric has two components.

First, 3% weight will be applied to the average amount of graduate debt incurred by students in the previous year’s graduating class. Only students who have taken on law school debt will be counted in this metric. Higher average debt will hurt; lower average debt will help.

Second, 2% weight will be applied to the proportion of a school’s graduating class who incurred law school debt. Again, higher proportions will hurt; lower proportions will help.

To make room for these new factors, U.S. News has reduced the weighting of two categories. The “Selectivity” factors have been reduced from 25% weight to 21%. Median test scores will now count for 11.25% of rankings, median GPA will count for 8.75%, and acceptance rate will count for 1%.

The Faculty Resources metric has been reduced from 15% weight to 14%.

There are absolutely some positives coming from these changes. First, they reduce the influence of admissions metrics. ... It is the first time that the rankings have, in any real way, addressed the cost of law school. ...

These new metrics are a step in the right direction, but they aren’t without downside.

For one thing, the Percent of Students With Graduate Debt metric may reward schools who enroll wealthy students. ... As for Average Graduate Debt, this will be a strong incentive for schools to enroll students who won’t be taking out much debt—the same reasoning for possibly wanting wealthier students as above. ...

This will absolutely have an impact on the rankings- beyond just the obvious. For starters, some schools will see serious benefits. ... Interestingly but perhaps unsurprisingly, the T14 don’t fare so well in this new metric. The best performing of them in 2019 was Northwestern at 92nd nationally. The rest ranged as low as Harvard Law at 152nd. Given that they don’t need to compete as much on price as other schools, this does make sense. But if that doesn't change, perhaps we see schools who are more willing to spend have a shot at breaking into the T14?

This change makes it somewhat harder for ambitious law schools to quickly change their ranking. Historically one of the easiest ways of doing so was to target dramatic improvement in admissions metrics: LSAT, GPA, and acceptance rate. Schools could also goose their average expenditures. Now, however, those admissions metrics count for somewhat less, making it harder to achieve significant year-over-year changes. And increased spending is often accompanied by more dollars from students but now those dollars, if financed by student debt, will come back to haunt the school.

Mike Spivey (Spivey Consulting), 2022 U.S. News Law School Rankings Predictions:

Spivey Consulting's Business Intelligence Director, Justin Kane, analyzed a great deal of law school data to calculate our predicted 2022 U.S. News & World Report law school rankings, below. ...

(1) Yale
(2) Stanford
(3) Harvard
(4) Columbia
(4) Chicago
(6) New York University
(7) Penn
(8) University of Virginia
(9) University of California- Berkeley
(9) Northwestern

Above the Law, U.S. News Changes Methodology For Law School Rankings To Include Graduate Debt:

Mike Spivey has a great discussion over at his site on the possible poor outcomes that could result from this change to the U.S. News rankings. Will schools start recruiting wealthier students to avoid this debt factor? Will they reduce the number of transfer students they accept? Will they lower their “cost of living” estimates even more, and make it even harder for students to survive during the course of school? These are all things we must think about now that law schools are being forced to care about debt to save their place in the rankings. ...

We’re very interested to see how things shake out now that debt is being taken into account as part of the U.S. News law school rankings. Will your law school sink under the heavy weight of its graduates’ debts or be able to keep swimming?

Law School Rankings, Legal Ed Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink