Sunday, August 25, 2013

Can changing a law school's name raise its USNWR ranking?

The Lansing State Journal recently published an article discussing how Cooley Law School is faring the nationwide decline in law school applications that has seen its own enrollment fall from more than 4,000 students in 2010 to a little more than 3,200 last fall (despite having opened a fifth campus in Tampa) with a further, "significant" drop expected this year as well.  According to the article, Cooley has weathered the storm through a combination of financial planning in which it set aside funds in anticipation of such a downturn, declining to fill faculty vacancies and raising tuition this year by nine percent

Toward the end of the article, there is mention of Cooley's "alliance" with a state university that may see it rebranded as Western Michigan University School of Law by year's end once the appropriate accrediting agencies have signed off.  In connection with that, the article mentions work by Professor William Henderson in which he found that changing a stand-alone law school's name by associating with a larger university (e.g., Detroit College of Law, Dickinson School of Law, and Franklin Pierce) or by changing its existing university affiliation (U. Bridgeport to Quinnipiac and U. Puget Sound to Seattle U.) can dramatically increase the school's USNWR ranking due to the "halo" effect.   Interesting stuff if you, like me, missed Professor Henderson's post the first time around. Though, as he warns, don't get your hopes up too much about your own school's ability to try jump a tier or two in the USNWR rankings by changing its name.  "[T]his strategy is only open to a handful of independent law schools and those affiliated with a weak, financially struggling central universities."


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