Friday, May 6, 2011
The media has given considerable coverage to the story that law schools give out merit scholarships conditioned on the student maintaining a minimum grade average. When a student fails to attain the requisite grade, the student may claim that the law school engaged in “bait and switch”—not informing the student how difficult it might be to satisfy that minimum.
According to the accusation, law schools offer the scholarships in hopes of attracting students with high LSATs and grade points in hopes of improving their U.S. News rankings. The Morse blog of U.S. News has taken offense. Here is its response:
It's clear that the U.S. News law school rankings have a large impact on law schools and prospective law school students. However, the U.S. News Best Law School rankings are not why students lose their scholarships. In addition, the article implies that the U.S. News rankings are the key factor behind why law schools are offering more merit-based aid and less need-based aid in order to enroll students with higher LSATs and GPAs and, as a result, improve in the rankings. Law schools need to take far more direct responsibility for their policies instead of citing the oft-repeated claims that they are forced into these actions solely because U.S. News exerts so much power over law school behavior.
I don’t see U.S. News as the cause of students losing scholarships. However, I do see it as the reason that schools give out so many scholarships in the first place—instead of rethinking the economics of legal education. I also wonder how many students lose these scholarships. After all, the schools award them to applicants with better numbers than their average student.
(ljs) (Thx to the ABA Journal blog)