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Amidst Mass Boycott, U.S. News Makes Changes to its Ranking

U.S. News & World Report is officially changing how it ranks law schools. The change follows months of widespread boycotts from top law school deans who criticized the ranking’s ethics and fairness.

In a letter to American law school deans published on its site, U.S. News stated that its next ranking would give more credit to schools whose grads go on to pursue advanced degrees, or school-funded fellowships to work in public-service jobs that pay lower wages. Deans had previously criticized the publisher for overvaluing high-paying private sector jobs and encouraging schools to favor wealthy students over those with financial need.

“For schools that do respond [to the request to participate], we will publish more detailed profiles, enabling students to create a more comprehensive picture of their various choices,” a letter to law school deans from Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News & World Report, and Stephanie Salmon, senior vice president for data and information strategy, states. “For the rankings portion, there will be some changes in how we weight certain data points, including a reduced emphasis on the peer assessment surveys of academics, lawyers and judges, and an increased weight on outcome measures.”

The letter also states: “Some law schools that are able to offer fellowships felt they were being undervalued, thus discouraging public service careers. For the next year, we will be giving full-weight to school-funded full-time long-term fellowships where bar passage is required or where the JD degree is an advantage, and we will treat all fellowships equally. We will also be giving full-weight to those enrolled in graduate studies in the [American Bar Association] employment outcomes grid.”


In their letter, U.S. News also added that changes would be coming to factors around financial aid and making data more accessible to the public.

“The conversations revealed other factors, such as loan forgiveness/loan assistance repayment programs, need-based aid, and diversity and socio-economic considerations, which will require additional time and collaboration to address. In these areas we will continue to work with academic and industry leaders to develop metrics with agreed upon definitions,” the letter states. “More data benefits everyone. To that end, we plan to make available to students more of the data we already have collected so that they can run deeper comparisons among law schools. Similarly, we call on all law schools to make public all of the voluminous data they currently report to the ABA but decline to publish, so that future law students can have fuller and more transparent disclosure.”


Not all law schools have released statements regarding the changes. Both Harvard Law School and Duke University declined to make any comments following the newly announced changes.

Still, the law schools that have made announcements say the changes have come just a little too late.

Yale Law’s dean, Heather K. Gerken, stated that “having a window into the operations and decision-making process at U.S. News in recent weeks has only cemented our decision to stop participating in the rankings.”

Megan Carpenter, dean of University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce School of Law, issued a statement that said, “The announcement from U.S. News about its intended modifications is too little, too late, and too vague. For years, law school deans and a host of other observers have raised concerns with U.S. News about its monolithic ranking system and its outsized negative influence on law school education with little substantial change.”

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, The New York Times

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