US News to change ranking system after law schools’ boycott

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. News & World Report will change how its rankings of law schools are calculated in response to a boycott by a number of top programs.

The magazine’s changes in methodology, announced Monday in a letter to law school deans, include an increased weight on outcomes for students such as bar exam passage and employment, and a reduced weight on assessment surveys from academics, lawyers and judges. The rankings will also give increased weight to school-funded fellowships, many of which steer students toward careers in public service.

“While we know it is challenging for diverse institutions to be ranked across a common data set, we all have the same goal -– to provide the best information to prospective students so they can make one of the most important decisions of their careers. U.S. News is committed to this purpose,” U.S. News executive chairman and CEO Eric Gertler said in a statement.

In the fall, a majority of the top 14 law schools announced they would no longer submit data for the rankings. The magazine, which has published the rankings since the 1980s, will continue to rank schools that choose not to participate, relying on publicly available metrics to construct its list.

Yale Law School, the first to withdraw from the rankings, said the ranking system was biased against programs meant to boost socioeconomic diversity and support the pursuit of public service careers. Dean Heather Gerken reiterated the school’s commitment to staying out of the rankings process after the changes in methodology were announced.

“Having a window into the operations and decision-making process at U.S. News in recent weeks has only cemented our decision to stop participating in the rankings,” Gerken said in a statement.

Following Yale’s decision to withdraw in November, other law schools followed, including Harvard, the University of California, Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Michigan.

U.S. News said in the letter to deans that it had been in conversation with over 100 representatives of law schools, and that a shared set of concerns emerged, which prompted the changes in rankings.

The changes will be reflected in the 2023-2024 rankings, which are expected to be published this spring.

Those changes do not address all the concerns raised by law school leadership. The magazine said it was working on addressing additional issues raised by law school leaders around consideration of loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs, need-based financial aid and diversity and socioeconomic factors.

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