U.S. News’ Rankings: Winners & Losers

Still, Hawaii’s overall index score is 36, with the #81 school (the University of Pittsburgh) carrying a 40 score. This four point differential is also what separates #1 Yale Law from #2 Harvard. Considering that 13 higher-ranked schools have index scores of 37 or 38, it is easy to see how thin the margin is between poor performance and breaking even with U.S. News.
Overall, the biggest drops belonged to the University of Louisville (-19), Loyola Marymount (-18), American University (-16), Nevada-Las Vegas (-15), the University of Buffalo (-14), the University of San Diego (-11), the University of Tennessee (-11), Georgia State (-10), and the University of Houston (-10).
It is also helpful to put U.S. News rankings in a historical context. Among the biggest risers in the past 5 years has been the University of Alabama, which has been consistently creeping up the rankings until falling two spots this year. Still, it has climbed from #38 to #23 in that time. Based on this momentum, it could possibly slip into the top 20 within the next two years (particularly since it maintained an 86% placement rate after nine months in 2015, higher than Northwestern, Cornell, and even Georgetown). The University of Washington has followed a similar path, racing from #34 to #24 since the 2011 rankings, even cracking the top 20 for 2013. It has solid across-the-board metrics and is based in a thriving technology hub.
The University of Nebraska’s law program has improved the most over the past five years, according to U.S. News. It has risen from #93 to #54 in that time. And let’s not forget the University of Richmond (#86 to #51), the University of Tulsa (Unranked to #72) and the University of Missouri at Columbia (#93 to #64).
Of course, there are the big schools, such as Stanford and the University of Chicago, which have each climbed a notch in the top 5 over the past five years. Despite losing a spot in 2015, the University of Virginia has still gained two spots, going from #10 in 2011 to #8 in the 2015 rankings.
Still, a number of schools have seen their performances slide over the past half-decade.  Loyola Marymount, once ranked #56, is in danger of slipping out of the top 100 entirely, as it now ranks #87, with an index only three points higher than #104 Mercer. Villanova faces a similar situation, sinking from #67 to #93. In addition, the University of Cincinnati and the University of San Diego have each dropped 23 spots since the 2011 rankings, with the University of Oregon losing 20 places.
The biggest disappointment in recent years has been the University of Illinois. Once ranked #21, the Illini have free-fallen to #40 (bottoming out in 2014 at #47). On the plus side, Illinois’ assessment scores from lawyers and judges tower over those given to higher-ranked schools like Fordham, Brigham Young, Arizona State, and the University of Georgia. However, the school is still being pulled down by its 9-month placement rates, reporting a 68.1% clip that falls short of hiring at lower-ranked schools like Southern Methodist, Florida State, and Tulane.
(See following pages for our lists of the biggest winners and losers in the U.S. News’ 2015 ranking) 

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