Yale and Harvard law schools separate from US News & World Report rankings
Yale and Harvard Law Schools, two of the top law schools in the country, have been ranked on US News & World Report’s Best Law Schools list for decades. Now there are schools bowing down.
Every year US News publishes a list of the best colleges in the country, including a list of the best law schools, using data provided by each school. This list is then used by students and employers to evaluate the merit of the college or university.
But on Wednesday it was announced by the deans of both law schools will no longer participate in the annual list, criticizing the publication’s methodology and claiming that the list actively perpetuates disparities in law schools.
“While I sincerely believe that US News operates with the best of intentions, it faces the nearly impossible task of ranking 192 law schools with a small set of one-size-fits-all metrics that cannot provide an accurate picture of such diverse institutions,” wrote Heather Gerken, dean of the law school. Yale. “His approach not only fails to advance the legal profession, it stands in the way of progress.”
John Manning, dean of Harvard Law School, echoed those sentiments, saying the way US News chooses the rankings “undermines the efforts of many law schools to support public interest careers for their graduates.”
“We share, and have expressed to US News, the concern that their debt metrics ignore school-funded loan forgiveness programs in calculating student debt. Such loan forgiveness programs help students who work in lower-wage jobs, usually in the public interest sector,” Manning noted in announcement published on the school website.
Eric Gertler, executive chairman and CEO of US News, defended the rankings in a statement to CNN, calling the lists part of his “journalistic mission” and a way to hold law schools accountable.
“US News Best Law Schools are for students who are looking for the best decision for their legal education. We will continue to fulfill our journalistic mission to ensure that students can rely on the best and most accurate information in making that decision,” Gertler said. “As part of our mission, we must continue to ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide these students, and that mission is not changed by this recent announcement.”
However, Gerken argued that the magazine actively discourages law schools from providing aid by placing a heavy emphasis on LSAT and GRE scores as well as GPA. That emphasis puts pressure on schools to turn away promising students who may not have been able to afford test-prep courses and forces schools to use financial aid for high-scoring students rather than students who need it most, she said.
The rankings also penalize colleges for supporting students who pursue careers in the public interest or pursue doctoral and master’s degrees, Gerken said.
“Unfortunately, the ranking system has made it increasingly difficult for law schools to provide strong support for students who serve their communities, to admit students from low-income backgrounds, and to direct financial aid to students who need it most,” Gerken wrote.
Manning agreed that the focus on prospective students’ merit has influenced how the school allocates its financial aid.
“Although HLS and YLS have resisted the pull toward so-called merit aid, it has become increasingly prevalent, absorbing scarce resources that could be allocated more directly based on need,” Manning said.
Given the status of Yale and Harvard as two of the most sought-after law schools in the country, theirs the move is significant. For years, policy makers and those working in higher education rejected ranking, although prospective students and their families still mention them. Still, the move by Yale and Harvard may signal a larger shift than college rankings.
While the decisions were met with praise, some questioned whether the move, if followed by other schools, would simply make it harder for the average person to choose which faculties to apply.
In her statement, Gerken said the school would instead provide prospective students with data “in a public, transparent and useful form” to help them make decisions.
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