Paul L. Caron

Saturday, March 4, 2023

NY Times: Defending Its Rankings, U.S. News Takes Aim At Top Law Schools

New York Times, Defending Its Rankings, U.S. News Takes Aim at Top Law Schools:

US News (2023)U.S. News & World Report said little last fall as Yale, Harvard and other elite law schools announced that they would no longer submit data to the publication’s rankings, charging that the influential list was an engine of inequality.

But in the last few days, U.S. News has fired back. In a public-relations campaign, the publication has accused the schools of trying to avoid accountability on admissions and outcomes for students, and it connected the boycott to a looming Supreme Court decision that could end affirmative action.

“Some law deans are already exploring ways to sidestep any restrictive ruling by reducing their emphasis on test scores and grades — criteria used in our rankings,” Eric J. Gertler, the executive chairman and chief executive of U.S. News, wrote in an opinion essay on Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.

The conflict is a sign that U.S. News will not shy away from vigorously defending the rankings, which are criticized by many universities but are popular with families — making them potentially another flash point in the country’s divisive debate over education issues.

On Wednesday, Harvard Law School held a conference on the rankings that was largely critical and alluded to some of the schools’ complaints: that the rankings used a misleading measure of student debt that schools could game by admitting more paying students; that the emphasis on grades and test scores encouraged merit aid, to the detriment of need-based aid; and that the methodology undermined efforts to support public interest careers for graduates. (U.S. News has already promised to address some of those criticisms.)

At the conference, the keynote speaker, Miguel Cardona, the education secretary, attacked the publication. “It’s time to stop worshiping at the false altar of U.S. News & World Report,” he said. “It’s time to focus on what truly matters — delivering value and upward mobility.”

But U.S. News had already responded that morning, in a full-page advertisement in The Boston Globe. In an open letter to Mr. Cardona, the publication defended the rankings and called for law schools to release even more data. It took a dig at the high cost of getting a law degree, saying, “As tuition continues to skyrocket, students require reliable information to guide them in their decision-making process.” ...

Peter B. Rutledge, dean of the University of Georgia law school, said his school would continue to participate in the rankings because they are a source of consumer information and because in the past, they had showcased the relatively low student debt of the school’s graduates. After the law schools announced their boycott, U.S. News said it would no longer consider student debt or spending per student. ...

One of the panelists, Deidré A. Keller, dean and professor of law at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a historically Black university in Tallahassee, said that the rankings’ emphasis on LSAT scores, grade point averages and selectivity was “inherently problematic” for her school. To make selectivity a hallmark of quality, she added, “we would have to be acting against our mission.” More important, she said, was the support students received from the school to succeed.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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