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Citing an inherent flaw in methodologies, Yale and Harvard Law Schools have they will no longer participate in the U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings issue.
Yale has captured the No. 1 spot every year since U.S. News began ranking law schools in 1990, Reuters reported. However, now Harvard and Yale are bowing out as the magazine uses methodology that they said devalued the efforts of schools like their own to recruit poor and working-class students, provide financial aid based on need and encourage students to go into low-paid public service law after graduation.
“The magazine continues to take data — much of it supplied by the law schools solely to U.S. News — and applies a misguided formula that discourages law schools from doing what is best for legal education,” Dean Gerken added in her statement. John Manning echoed those sentiments in his statement, saying the way U.S. News chooses to do its rankings “undermines the efforts of many law schools to support public interest careers for their graduates.” Both schools also added that they have approached U.S. News several times to change its methodology, the New York Times reported.
So far U.S. News has not stated whether it will continue to rank Yale and Harvard. “We agree that test scores don’t tell the full story of an applicant, and law schools make their own decisions on the applicant pool based on the mission of the school,” U.S. News responded to the statements, according to the NY Times.
College rankings have always been a topic of criticism by many experts, saying they put too much emphasis on standardized test scores and do not take into account a lot of other factors. The methodology has also come under fire, with Columbia University dropping from No. 2 to No. 18 after it was revealed that some of the data, including undergraduate class size and the percentage of faculty with the highest degree in their field, had been inaccurate.
Both Manning and Gerken have said that the U.S. News rankings do not take into account the debt metric correctly and incentivizes schools to take more students who do not need financial aid and harms others. They further added that by weighing test scores and college grades, the rankings create incentives for law schools to provide financial aid based on these scores rather than actual need. And third, they both state that the U.S. News methodology undermines the efforts of many law schools to support public interest careers for their graduates.
The move by Harvard and Yale might not be a big step. After all, only the law schools have pulled out of the rankings. However, this might drive other institutions to take a stronger stand against the methodology employed by these rankings. Also, U.S. News is not the only magazine to rank schools and a lot of the information used for these studies is publicly available. It remains to be seen whether the importance attached to these rankings will reduce over time.