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UCLA Law School Boycotts US News & World Report Rankings

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The University of California, Los Angeles School of Law announced Tuesday that it is joining a growing boycott of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, saying the methodology used by the publication penalizes institutions that encourage careers in public law and seek to enroll students from diverse and marginalized communities.

UCLA’s decision reinforces what is becoming the biggest challenge to the college rankings industry, following similar decisions last week by other top law schools to withdraw from the publication. At least half of the top 20 U.S. law schools have announced they will not participate in the rankings because of long-standing problems with the methodology. In addition to UCLA, they include Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, UC Berkeley, Georgetown, Michigan, Duke, and Northwestern.

USC Law, which is currently ranked 20th in the US news rankings, has not joined the boycott or made any statements about it. Among California law schools, Stanford ranks 2nd, followed by UC Berkeley 9th and UCLA 15th.

“The ranking prevents schools from supporting their graduates’ careers in public service, creating a diverse student body, and providing financial aid based on their needs,” UCLA School of Law Interim Dean Russell Karobkin said in a message to the law school community. “UCLA Law does all of these things, but honoring our core values ​​costs ranking points.”

U.S. News officials said their organization will continue to rank the nearly 200 or so fully accredited law schools regardless of whether the institutions agree to submit their data. Most of the information used for the ranking is in the public domain.

“The US News Best Law Schools Ranking is designed for students looking for the best solution for their legal education. We will continue to fulfill our journalistic mission to ensure that students can rely on the best and most accurate information when making such decisions,” Eric Gertler, executive chairman and chief executive officer of US News, said in a statement. “As part of our mission, we must continue to ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they provide to these students, and that mission will not change with these recent announcements.”

Karobkin took issue with several aspects of US News’ review method. He said the ranking relies on unadjusted student GPAs to measure student quality, penalizing those who take classes that tend to earn lower grades, such as math, technology, engineering and science. The law school’s dean said it discourages students from pushing themselves to take more challenging classes and doesn’t measure their academic ability or leadership potential. Other critics have said that the focus on GPAs and test scores encourages law schools to award merit-based financial aid to attract applicants with the best scores, rather than providing need-based aid designed to offer greater access to low-income students .

Karobkin also criticized the use of subjective ratings of the “reputation” of law school faculty and programs, which are represented by a small number of lawyers, judges and professors. He said such raters “cannot hope to gain detailed knowledge of the nearly 200 schools they are being asked to rate, rather than using more quantifiable measures.”

Like UC Berkeley and other institutions, UCLA Law is also concerned that rankings are keeping students from entering public law.

UC Berkeley, for example provides students with a stipend for a year after graduation to work in a community organization. Students receive a salary comparable to an entry-level civil service or public interest position, as well as a stipend while studying for the bar exams. Nine out of 10 students who receive the scholarship stay in public service, according to UC Berkeley Law School Dean Ervin Chemerinsky.

But U.S. News doesn’t count those fellows as fully employed, creating “a perverse incentive for schools to eliminate these positions despite their success and the training they provide for future state attorneys,” Chemerinsky said last week, announcing that the school will join the boycott.

In addition, Karobkin said US News rewards schools for spending more on their students. But that hurts public law schools, he said, which tend to spend less and charge less than private schools.

To make matters worse, Chemerinsky said, the law school’s per-student costs are adjusted according to the cost of living in the surrounding area. This means that high-cost regions, such as the San Francisco Bay Area, are penalized despite a lack of evidence that such rates are associated with academic quality. A statistical analysis by the University of California, Berkeley found that cost-of-living adjustments alone dropped Berkeley’s US News ranking to No. 9. This helped lift Yale University in New Haven, CT to No. 1 over Stanford’s No. 2, in Palo Alto.

Some other top law schools that did not join the boycott said they were looking into the matter but echoed the criticism.

In a statement last week, Art The University of Pennsylvania Law School applauded to his similar institute “for leadership in solving key issues.”

“Among the problems with the current system, the US News algorithm severely understates the money spent on student financial aid, while fully rewarding schools for every dollar spent on faculty and administrator salaries and other operating costs,” the statement said. law school. “The rating does not provide a comprehensive picture of how legal education meets the needs of today’s society.”

In an interview, Karobkin said the time spent discussing the issue with faculty and alumni did not focus on whether the ranking methodology was flawed — he said there was “no question.” Most likely, the school was debating whether a position would make a difference, since 80% of the information used by US News is in the public domain.

In the end, he said, the law school felt it had to take a public stance.

“It’s important for us to use this moment to reinforce our values ​​and do everything we can to drive positive change by opting out,” he said. “We are willing to work with US News or any other organization that wants to rank law schools to help define a methodology that can provide useful comparative information for prospective students without creating perverse incentives for schools that do not encourage the improvement of legal education.” .

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