Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Henderson/McEntee/Shepard Propose Changes to US News' Methodology

Kyle McEntee of Law School Transparency has an interesting post today at Above the Law.  It discusses a letter he, Bill Henderson and former Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court Randall Shepard (who was also the Chair of the ABA's Task Force on the Future of Legal Education) sent to US News in 2014 proposing some changes to the rankings methodology. 

They would get rid of the "faculty resources" factors (the parentheticals are the weight currently given in the rankings to each factor):

  1. Expenditures per Student (9.75%): The amount spent on instruction, library and supporting services divided into total J.D. student enrollment.
  2. Modified Expenditures per Student (1.5%): The amount spent on instruction, library and supporting services, plus financial aid, divided into total J.D. student enrollment.
  3. Student-Faculty Ratio (3%): The ratio of students to faculty members, according to the ABA definition.
  4. Library Resources (0.75%): The total number of volumes and titles in the school's law library.

In their place, they suggest that US News use either:

  1. Expenditures per High-Quality Job; or
  2. Tuition Revenue per High-Quality Job

Expenditures are a very poor measure of any type of academic quality.  Worse, over the years, this factor has undoubtedly contributed to tuition increases, since spending more money on anything marginally helps in the rankings.  My preference would be to get rid of any factor related to expenditures at all.  But given the reality that US News likes to appear "scientific" and probably wants to keep some form of expenditure data, a link between expenditures and job outcomes, however imperfect, would probably be an improvement.


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