The debate about the potential impact of a possible change in the U.S. Newsmethodology for the upcoming law schools rankings continues to grow. Today, the Wall Street Journal weighs in with the front-page story "Law School Rankings Reviewed to Deter 'Gaming.'" The article offers up one analysis of the potential effect the inclusion of part-time students in the rankings data could have on the future of part-time law school programs.
Some background: In my blog post "Changing the Law School Ranking" Formula, we discussed the idea of combining both full-time and part-time entering student admission data for median LSAT scores and median undergraduate grade-point averages in the calculation of the school's ranking. Our current law school ranking methodology counts only full-time student data. Just to be clear, U.S. News is carefully contemplating the potential impact of such a methodology change; we will not make a decision until January 2009.
If implemented, for most law schools the changes in rankings would most likely be very small, because the differences between their combined data for both full- and part-time entering students versus full-time only are minimal. Of course, schools that have big differences in these two groups of data would be more heavily affected.
As always, we continue to talk with law school deans about the methodology, particularly those who have expressed their views on the negative impact such a change would have on their part-time programs. Some deans have told us they would have to choose between maintaining their law school rankings by raising the part-time programs' admission standards or maintaining the status quo of their part-time program and risk falling in the ranking.