Yale Law School and Harvard Law School are pulling out of the US News & World Report law school rankings they say are flawed.
Yale, which has taken the top spot in the rankings every year, determined the criteria were “profoundly flawed,” Dean Heather Gerken said Wednesday. The school will no longer participate in listings that “disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession,” she said.
The rankings devalue programs that encourage low-paying public interest jobs and reward schools that give scholarships for high LSAT scores rather than focusing on a student’s financial needs, Gerken said. And while Yale awards many more public interest fellowships per student than any of its peers, she said, US News “appears to discount these invaluable opportunities to such an extent that these graduates are effectively classified as unemployed.”
That “backward approach discourages law schools throughout the country from supporting students who dream of a service career,” Gerken said in a post on the school’s website. The rankings also discourage graduates from pursuing advanced degrees, she said.
US News & World Report LP said Yale’s decision won’t change its goals for the rankings, which are a prestigious measure for the nation’s best law schools.
“The US News Best Law Schools rankings are for students seeking the best decision for their law education,” said Eric Gertler, executive chairman and chief executive officer.
“We will continue to fulfill our journalistic mission of ensuring that students can rely on the best and most accurate information in making that decision,” Gertler said in a statement. “As part of our mission, we must continue to ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide to these students and that mission does not change with this recent announcement.”
Harvard joined Yale in announcing it will withdraw from the rankings.
“It has become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the US News rankings reflect,” Dean John F. Manning said in a statement on the Harvard Law School website. “This decision was not made lightly and only after considerable deliberation over the past several months.”
The “debt metric” adopted by US 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,” Manning said. The school also said the methodology focuses too much on students test scores and college grades and undermines Harvard’s effort support public interest careers for their graduates.
At Stanford law school, currently ranked No. 2, “we have long been concerned about the US News law school rankings methodology,” spokeswoman Stephanie Ashe said. The school will be giving “careful thought” to Yale’s objections, Ashe said.
University of Chicago Law School, ranked No. 3 by US News, and Columbia Law School, No. 4, declined to comment.
Yale isn’t the first to criticize the US News rankings. Earlier in the year, a member of Columbia’s undergraduate faculty, Professor Michael Thaddeus, questioned the accuracy of data submitted by the university to US News. The school later admitted the data had been inaccurate, and Columbia dropped from No. 2 to No. 18 in the rankings.
“The law deans have been having these conversations with US News and things have not changed,” Gerken said in an interview. “That is exactly why this is the moment to take a step back. It’s also a moment when institutions across the country are reflecting on the role of higher education in the world and what our values are.”
Gerken said that she does not know whether or not US News will include Yale in the next ranking, but that it “would not have an enormous amount of our data.”
Ted Ruger, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, said he “applauds Yale Law for its leadership in raising key questions for all law schools by withdrawing from the US News & World Report rankings. While useful in some ways, the rankings don’t provide a clear or complete perspective into institutional priorities for educating future lawyers. We are evaluating this issue and assessing a process for our own decision-making.”
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