Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Harvard Joins Yale In No Longer Participating In The U.S. News Law School Rankings

John Manning (Dean, Harvard), Decision to Withdraw from the U.S. News & World Report Process:

Harvard Law School Logo (2021)I write today to share with you that Harvard Law School will no longer participate in the U.S. News & World Report rankings, effective this year. (Yale Law School announced a similar decision earlier today). We at HLS have made this decision because it has become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the U.S. News rankings reflect. This decision was not made lightly and only after considerable deliberation over the past several months.

Done well, such rankings could convey accurate, relevant information about universities, colleges, and graduate and professional schools that may help students and families make informed choices about which schools best meet their needs. However, rankings can also emphasize characteristics that potentially mislead those who rely on them and can create perverse incentives that influence schools’ decisions in ways that undercut student choice and harm the interests of potential students.

Over several years now, a number of schools — including Harvard Law School — have brought to the attention of U.S. News, either directly or through the U.S. News Law Deans Advisory Board, the concerns that have motivated us to end our participation in the U.S. News process. In particular, we have raised concerns about aspects of the U.S. News ranking methodology (also highlighted by our colleagues at Yale) that work against law schools’ commitments to enhancing the socioeconomic diversity of our classes; to allocating financial aid to students based on need; and, through loan repayment and public interest fellowships, to supporting graduates interested in careers serving the public interest.

First, the debt metric adopted by U.S. News two years ago risks confusing more than it informs because a school may lower debt at graduation through generous financial aid, but it may also achieve the same effect by admitting more students who have the resources to avoid borrowing. The debt metric gives prospective students no way to tell which is which. And to the extent the debt metric creates an incentive for schools to admit better resourced students who don’t need to borrow, it risks harming those it is trying to help.

Second, by heavily weighting students’ test scores and college grades, the U.S. News rankings have over the years created incentives for law schools to direct more financial aid toward applicants based on their LSAT scores and college GPAs without regard to their financial need. Though HLS and YLS have each resisted the pull toward so-called merit aid, it has become increasingly prevalent, absorbing scarce resources that could be allocated more directly on the basis of need.

Third, the U.S. News methodology undermines the efforts of many law schools to support public interest careers for their graduates. We share, and have expressed to U.S. News, the concern that their debt metric ignores school-funded loan forgiveness programs in calculating student debt. Such loan forgiveness programs assist students who pursue lower paying jobs, typically in the public interest sector. We have joined other schools in also sharing with U.S. News our concern about the magazine’s decision to discount, in the employment ranking, professional positions held by those who receive public interest fellowships funded by their home schools. These jobs not only provide lawyers to organizations for critical needs, they also often launch a graduate’s career in the public sector.

For these and other reasons, we will no longer participate in the U.S. News process. It does not advance the best ideals of legal education or the profession we serve, and it contradicts the deeply held commitments of Harvard Law School.

New York Times, Yale and Harvard Law Schools Withdraw From the U.S. News Rankings:

In perhaps the biggest challenge yet to the school rankings industry, both Yale and Harvard announced Wednesday that they were withdrawing from the influential U.S. News & World Report rankings of the nation’s best law schools.

Colleges and universities have been critical of the U.S. News ranking system for decades, saying that it was unreliable and skewed educational priorities, but they had rarely taken action to thwart it, and every year almost always submitted their data for judgment on their various undergraduate and graduate programs.

Now both Yale and Harvard law schools have announced that they will no longer cooperate. In two separate letters posted on their websites, the law school deans excoriated U.S. News for using a methodology that they said devalued the efforts of schools like their own to recruit poor and working-class students, provide financial aid based on need and encourage students to go into low-paid public service law after graduation. ...

U.S. News reacted somewhat blandly to Yale, saying it stood by its “mission” to “ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide.”

Asked whether U.S. News would continue to rank Yale, Eric Gertler, chief executive of U.S. News, said that the organization was reviewing options.

After Harvard’s announcement, the tone became more conciliatory. “We agree that test scores don’t tell the full story of an applicant, and law schools make their own decisions on the applicant pool based on the mission of the school,” U.S. News said in an email.

But the statement said the American Bar Association still requires standardized tests for almost all law schools. “The rankings are a start, not an answer,” U.S. News said. “Our mission is, and has always been, to provide data on schools for prospective students and their families.” ...

[M]any of the other top 10 law schools appeared on Wednesday to be holding their fire.

The University of Pennsylvania law school applauded Yale and Harvard “for their leadership” and said that it was “evaluating this issue,” but it did not immediately offer to join in.

Columbia and the University of Chicago declined to comment. New York University officials said they were aware of the action by Harvard and Yale, but “we haven’t made any determination on the matter yet.”

Harvard Crimson, Harvard Law School Abandons of U.S. News Rankings:

Harvard Law School will stop participating in the U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings, the school announced Wednesday.

The school’s announcement came just hours after Yale Law School also said it would stop participating in the rankings, which have come under increased scrutiny in recent months amid questions about the methodology used by U.S. News.

Harvard Law School Dean John F. Manning ’82 wrote in an email to HLS affiliates that it has “become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the U.S. News rankings reflect.”

Brian Leiter (Chicago), Kudos to Dean Gerken For Withdrawing Yale Law School From the Ranking Charade (UPDATE: HLS Also Dropping Out):

Harvard Law School is also declining to cooperate with I'll post a link to a public announcement as soon as one is available.

Josh Blackman (South Texas), Judge Ho Boycotts Yale. Yale Boycotts U.S. News Rankings.:

Harvard Law School is also boycotting the rankings. Stanford and the other Ivies will probably follow. U.S. News may soon implode like FTX.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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