5 Failings of the U.S. News Rankings
The grads will be boasting,
And deans will be roasting,
So budget more doe.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Yes, March 11th has passed. This year, there were plenty of deans cheering or breathing a sigh of relief. But many more huddled with their staff, dissecting the data, issuing the usual non-sequiturs, and plotting how to climb a few spots next year. Of course, many will bash U.S. News’ methodology (privately, of course).
Weights on peer assessments? Spending-per-student? Placement rates? Bah humbug!
So what’s really wrong with the rankings? This week, Law.com’s Kyle McEntee shares his concerns. While he doesn’t prescribe any new methodologies or formulas, his five “failures” are worth a read. Here are the areas that he believes are poisoning the U.S. News rankings:
1) Doesn’t Emphasize Job Outcomes Enough: “In a survey of 600 students studying for the October 2012 LSAT, Breaking Media’s research arm found that the two most popular words associated with the students’ purpose of getting a J.D. were “career” and “work”… Despite the importance of job outcomes, they account for only 18% of the rank and credit schools for jobs few attend law school to pursue.”
2) Focuses Too Heavily on National Scope: “(This) places schools on the same scale. Only a handful of schools have a truly national reach in job placement. The rest have a regional, in-state, or even just local reach. The relative positioning of California Western and West Virginia in the rankings is virtually meaningless. Graduates from these schools do not compete with one another…It turns out that 161 schools place at least half of their employed class of 2012 graduates in one state. The top state destination for each school accounts for 67.3% of employed graduates…Only 20.6% of employed graduates (16.9% of the entire class) end up in a state other than the top three.”
3) Doesn’t Show the Degree of Difference Between Schools: “Are Columbia and NYU virtually tied? Or does the two-rank difference represent a wide gulf in quality? Is the so-called difference between Columbia and NYU the same as the difference between Cornell and Vanderbilt? Students weighing school prices need to know not just which school is better but how much better it is.”
4) Doesn’t Go Into Detail: “U.S. News will tell you that Stanford knocked Harvard out of the #2 spot in 2012-13, but the swap in rankings does not provide any clues to your average reader as to why…Instead, students can know only relative performance.”
5) Doesn’t Distinguish Good From Bad: “U.S. News inexplicably places every ABA accredited law school on the list of “The Best.” The best at what? U.S. News doesn’t say. But it implies that every school on the list is good. The truth is that once costs and employment outcomes are considered in comparison to personal career goals, many schools are bad choices. The U.S. News rankings provide no help in drawing the line.
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