Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Story time

Either in my first or second year of law school the U.S. News law school rankings came out and my school had fallen significantly in the rankings from the prior year. The student body was outraged. Many people had chosen the law school based, at least in part, on the school's rankings. The fact that the school was suddenly "less prestigious" meant that their choice may have been a mistake. Chronic fears that most law students have, that they will emerge with their law degree deep in debt but unable to get a high paying job, took over. Certain students all but accused the administration of pulling a bait and switch (as if the administrators had personally pumped up the rankings the year before and then sunk them after we signed on to be students).

The school's administration sprung into action. We all got a letter explaining why that year's rankings were flawed and that the school *really* had a better reputation than the rankings reflected. The dean of the law school and other high-ranking administrators flew to Washington D.C. to speak with the U.S. News staff and to lobby for a better ranking the next year.

It worked. The next year our rankings improved. The outrage abated. But from my perspective all that showed was that the school rankings themselves were a total crock. There was little noticeable difference between the education offered by the school from one year to the next. And yet, we had a significant improvement in the rankings (after a significant decrease). If the rankings could be affected by lobbying, then they really had no meaning at all.

That's why I thought that the U.S. News and World Report rankings (as well as all other school rankings) are just a load of horseshit, even before I read this.