Harvard and Yale announced that they will be withdrawing their law schools from participating in the popular U.S. News and World Report college rankings.
The decision comes amid a wave of higher-education reform attempting to open the application to working-class and lower-income students. Yale, despite being ranked on top by U.S. News year after year, decided to move away from the rankings, arguing that the magazine “applies a misguided formula that discourages law schools from doing what is best for legal education,” noted Yale Law School Dean Heather K. Gerken.
Yale will no longer participate in listings that “disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession,” she said.
According to the statement released by Gerken, the rankings also “discourage law schools from admitting and providing aid to students with enormous promise who may come from modest means. Today, 20% of a law school’s overall ranking is median LSAT/GRE scores and GPAs. While academic scores are an important tool, they don’t always capture the full measure of an applicant. This heavily weighted metric imposes tremendous pressure on schools to overlook promising students, especially those who cannot afford expensive test preparation courses.”
Harvard Law School joined Yale in ditching U.S. News rankings days after Yale’s announcement, citing similar concerns with ranking criteria. “It has become impossible to reconcile our principles and commitments with the methodology and incentives the US News rankings reflect,” said Dean of Harvard Law School John F. Manning in a statement. “This decision was not made lightly and only after considerable deliberation over the past several months.”
Critics of rankings, such as the one made by U.S. News, claim that the rankings rely too heavily on a school’s reputation and faculty compensation instead of the quality of education. Evan Mandery, a former Harvard graduate and author, argues that top schools claim to have numerous programs for admitting low-income students despite admitting fourteen times as many students from high-income brackets. “The U.S. News rankings have played a role in elite colleges doubling down on asset hoarding and creating pathways that are available only to the elites,” Mandery told CBS.
“The US News Best Law Schools rankings are for students seeking the best decision for their law education,” said Eric Gertler, U.S. News executive chairman and CEO. “We will continue to fulfill our journalistic mission of ensuring that students can rely on the best and most accurate information in making that decision,” he said.
“As part of our mission, we must continue to ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide to these students and that mission does not change with these recent announcements,” said Gertler.
Schools are coming out in support of the stand taken by Yale.
Ted Ruger, dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, “applauds Yale Law for its leadership in raising key questions for all law schools by withdrawing from the US News & World Report rankings. While useful in some ways, the rankings don’t provide a clear or complete perspective into institutional priorities for educating future lawyers. We are evaluating this issue and assessing a process for our own decision-making.”
Stanford, whose law school ranks #2, has “long been concerned about the US News law school rankings methodology,” stated spokeswoman Stephanie Ashe. Its board will consider whether or not the school should leave the ranking system along with its Ivy brothers.