The U.S. News Rankings Aftermath

The University of California-Irvine

The University of California-Irvine

U.C. Irvine Didn’t Make The Top 20: What Went Wrong?


One of the underlying storylines of this year’s U.S. News rankings was the University of California-Irvine’s new law school. The school was established in 2009 and founding dean, Erwin Chemerinsky announced the school would be a top 20 program the first time they were ranked. They came in 30th.

Many schools would be thrilled to earn a top 30 ranking. For UC-Irvine, it had to be a letdown. Chemerinsky and the school had a lot going for them. Donors had covered full tuition costs for the inaugural class. The second class received 50 percent scholarships and the third class received 33.3 percent scholarships. All of this just for being accepted to the school.

However, the school encountered several unforeseen occurrences. For starters, law school interest peaked a year after ithe school was launched. Enrollment and LSAT test takers hit a historical high in 2010 and then started the free fall due to an imploding job market.

Second, the entire University of California school system was hit with large-scale tuition hikes. At UC-Irvine, law school tuition climbed to $47,000 for California residents and $51,000 for non-residents. Even with partial scholarships, that is a lot for students to front.

The school also faced several issues within its control. For example, Chemerinsky is traditionally known for attracting students interested in public interest jobs. As a result, it struggled with attracting students interested in private sector work (which can sometimes pay twice the starting salary as an entry level public sector job). Also, while the UC system has a good reputation, it doesn’t carry the brand name that other universities carry. For example, opening a law school at UC-Irvine doesn’t carry the same prestige as Princeton would have if it opened a law school.

And so these challenges (and probably a few others) are what led to UC-Irvine failing to crack the top 20. It will be very interesting to see which direction the school goes in next year’s ranking.

Source: Washington Post