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Change Ahead for Law School Rankings?Some deans oppose the idea of including part-time students' scores in magazine's calculations
U.S. News & World Report may change how it calculates its law school rankings -- and some deans aren't happy about it. The magazine is considering pooling part-time students' scores after hearing claims that some schools move students with lower grades and test scores into part-time programs so they can report better data, said the magazine's director of data research. Deans warn that a slot on the list is so important that some schools would drop part-time programs rather than slip in the rankings.
The National Law Journal2008-07-07 12:00:00 AM
U.S. News & World Report may change how it calculates the influential ranking of the nation's law schools -- and some law deans are not happy about it.
One important category in the closely watched list is the undergraduate grade-point average and LSAT scores of the incoming class.
U.S. News currently uses only the grades and test scores of full-time students. The magazine is considering pooling the scores of part-time students after hearing allegations that some schools move students with lower grades and test scores into part-time programs so they can report better data, said Robert Morse, director of data research for the magazine.
"One way to prevent gaming of the system is to count [grade and test data of] all students," Morse said.
The proposal is strongly opposed by deans at schools with part-time programs designed for students who are years past college graduation and often well into careers outside the law. They warn that a school's place on the U.S. News list is so important that some schools would drop the part-time programs rather than slip lower in the national rankings.
"If U.S. News starts combining the scores of full-time and part-time students, the pressure to end evening schools will become overwhelming," said William Treanor, dean of Fordham School of Law in New York, which has had a part-time program for nearly a century.
Daniel D. Polsby, dean of George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Va., said the school's part-time program accepts students who bring life experience that typically younger full-time students do not.
"At every law school I know with a part-time program you are talking about [students who are] older, racial or ethnic minorities, people with jobs and families, people with interesting life experience that kids who are just past adolescence can't be expected to have," he said. "Their college records are many years in their past and a less impressive measure of the law student he or she will be. Shutting them out will damage the profession."
Fred Lawrence, dean of George Washington University Law School, which began its part-time program in the 1860s, recommended that U.S. News rank part-time programs separately from full-time programs.
"Our part-time students typically are older, more experienced, and more geographically tied to the area in which they live and work than our full-time students," he said. "Most go to law school while working in full-time jobs. We encourage U.S. News to compare full-time programs with full-time programs and part-time programs with part-time programs."
Morse, who invited comment from law schools, said part time and full time are included when the magazine calculates student/faculty ratio, the employment rate of graduates, the rate at which graduates pass the bar on their first try and expenditures per student. The magazine has not decided to make the change and is listening to concerns, he said.