The University of St. Thomas School of Law was ranked the No. 116 law school in the country by U.S. News and World Report this year, up 16 spots from last year. But that increase may be due to an error the Minneapolis school made when reporting its employment rate.

Law school administrators said this week that they accidentally reported to U.S. News that 80.6 percent of the class of 2010 had found employment at graduation, when the actual figure was 32.9 percent. The school said on its Web site that both the correct and incorrect figures appeared on the school’s U.S. News data report, and that the magazine published the incorrect one. It was not clear whether U.S. News used the incorrect figure in its calculations.

“We are deeply sorry to have failed to catch this discrepancy in our reported data,” the school wrote. “We take data accuracy very seriously.”

The school’s prompt and public response to the reporting mistake highlights the increased pressure law schools face amid criticism that many have fudged their numbers to either boost their U.S. News ranking or lure prospective students.

U.S. News Director of Data Bob Morse said on March 15 that the publication was “currently working on this issue,” but offered no specific information about the situation. The publication released its law school rankings on March 13.

Law school spokesman Chato Hazelbaker said that the school did not misreport any employment statistics for the class of 2010 either to the American Bar Association or the National Association for Law Placement, neither of which require schools to report employment rates at graduation. St. Thomas correctly reported an employment rate of 86.5 percent nine months after graduation to U.S. News, NALP and the ABA, Hazelbaker said.

Even if U.S. News did use the incorrect figure, it wasn’t not clear how much that would have affect St. Thomas’ result. Employment success accounts for 20 percent of a law school’s ranking, but the magazine gives greater weight to the placement rate nine months after graduation than it does on the rate at graduation. The at-graduation rate counts just 4 percent toward a school’s ranking, compared to 14 percent for the nine-month rate. Bar passage rates make up 2 percent of a school’s ranking.

As for whether U.S. News would revise St. Thomas’ ranking, the publication did not do so when Villanova University School of Law or the University of Illinois College of Law revealed that they had inflated the Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages.

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