Paul L. Caron

Thursday, March 2, 2023

U.S. News, Department Of Education, And Law Schools Take The Gloves Off In Rankings Battle

Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:  Why Elite Law and Medical Schools Can’t Stand U.S. News, by Eric J. Gertler (Chairman & CEO, U.S. News):

US News Grad Schools (2022)The decision by some elite law and medical schools to opt out of the U.S. News & World Report ranking surveys has ignited a national debate on meritocracy and equity. But lost in this discussion is the reason U.S. News ranks academic institutions and why our rankings are so important to aspiring students. ...

Our rankings don’t capture every nuance. Academic institutions aren’t monolithic or static; comparing them across a common data set can be challenging. But we reject our critics’ paternalistic view that students are somehow incapable of discerning for themselves from this information which school is the best fit.

Moreover, the perspective of elite schools doesn’t fit with that of the broader law- and medical-school community. Our editors held meetings with 110 law deans following the outcry over our rankings. Excepting the top 14 law schools, almost 75% of the schools that submitted surveys in 2022 did so in 2023. For medical schools, the engagement level was higher.

While we know that our rankings are important to students, we’re incredulous that our critics blame our rankings for just about every issue academia confronts. ... [E]lite schools object to our use of a common data set for all schools because our rankings are something they can’t control and they don’t want to be held accountable by an independent third party. ...

By refusing to participate, elite schools are opting out of an important discussion about what constitutes the best education for students, while implying that excellence and important goals like diversity are mutually exclusive.

Is it tolerable to leave schools unaccountable for the education they deliver to students? We think not.

Reuters, U.S. News Rankings Come Under Fire at Yale, Harvard Conference:

The U.S. Secretary of Education on Wednesday criticized annual higher education rankings published by U.S. News and World Report, saying they have "created an unhealthy obsession with selectivity."

Secretary Miguel Cardona was speaking at a conference organized by the law schools at Harvard and Yale universities, amid a backlash over the magazine's influential law school rankings.

“We need a culture change," Cardona said, asserting that U.S. News' emphasis on selectivity and exclusivity has helped steer underserved students to lower-tier institutions. "It’s time to stop worshipping at the false altar of U.S. News & World Report.”

Wednesday's conference, held at Harvard Law School and focused on "best practices" involving law school data, follows a large-scale exodus of law schools that once participated in U.S. News’ rankings. ...

Yale law dean Heather Gerken on Wednesday reiterated her view that the U.S. News rankings have damaged legal education. We can think about how to do better,” she said.

U.S. News Press Room, An Open Letter from U.S. News & World Report to United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona:

Dear Secretary Cardona,
As an educator, you have recently expressed your concern that higher education institutions “that serve the most students with the most to gain from a college degree have the fewest resources to invest in student success.” At U.S. News & World Report, we commend your dedication to these institutions, especially in a time where it is crucial to equip students with the necessary skills to excel in a complex work environment.

When you deliver your keynote address at the “Conference on Best Practices for Law School Data” today at Harvard Law School – one of the most highly-resourced academic institutions in America – we would like to offer some suggestions on how you can leave a lasting impact on students. In short: require more data, not less. ...

Regrettably, not all schools make their data readily available to the general public. For instance, law schools are required to report extensive data about their institutions to the American Bar Association, but often only disclose a portion of that information on their own websites. Similarly, while undergraduate programs are mandated to disclose detailed information to the federal government, there is a dearth of federal data on graduate schools, leaving prospective students with limited resources to rely on when making important decisions about their future.

U.S. News will continue to fight for access, transparency and accountability of data that empowers students to make informed decisions. You recently stated, “As leaders, it’s time for us to stand up for students and expect more in education.” We couldn’t agree more.

Therefore, we call on you today to use your platform and voice to demand that all schools – including elite law schools – provide open access to all of their undergraduate and graduate school data, using a common data set. This would enable prospective students and their families to make meaningful comparisons between institutions, based on factors such as financial information, admissions data, and outcome statistics, including employment rates at graduation.

Observer, Defending Its Rankings, U.S. News Claims Elite Universities Are Evading Accountability:

U.S. News accuses top-ranked universities of having ulterior motives for leaving the publication's annual rankings.

Inside Higher Ed, Cardona vs. ‘U.S. News’:

At Harvard-Yale conference on law school rankings, the education secretary joins the call for all colleges to stop participating.

Chronicle of Higher Education, Colleges Protesting ‘U.S. News’ Rankings Say They’re Doing It for Low-Income Students. Do They Mean It?:

The U.S. News revolt of 2022-23 has reached the undergraduate lists. Colorado College, ranked among the top 30 liberal-arts colleges, announced on Monday that it would stop cooperating with the magazine. It’s among the first institutions to withdraw from the undergraduate rankings in the current wave of protests.

The college’s decision underscores a paradox in the movement against U.S. News & World Report. Since last fall, the deans of dozens of law and medical schools have said they won’t send information to the magazine ... Often, the “We’re leaving” announcements cite how the U.S. News algorithm hurts students from low-income families. Yet many of these leavers have among the nation’s wealthiest student bodies. Will ditching the ranking help them serve society more equitably? Or is it performative?

Nowhere is that paradox more prominent than Colorado College. In 2017, an analysis published in The New York Times found that nearly a quarter of the college’s students came from families with incomes in the top 1 percent of the country, while just 11 percent came from families in the bottom 60 percent of incomes. Only one other college had a starker difference between the two student populations than Colorado College did. Though the institution was exemplary, it wasn’t an anomaly. Several colleges with law or medical schools that have left U.S. News lists, such as Duke, Georgetown, and Yale Universities, had more undergraduate students from the top 1 percent than from bottom 60 percent.

U.S. News coverage:


U.S. News Response to Boycott

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