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University of Illinois Law School in Hot Water (Again)

Illinois is a troubled state. In July, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted of corruption for selling Barack Obama’s vacated senate seat. He will be the fourth Illinois governor in 35 years to go to prison. The fourth. And that doesn’t count the plethora of other politicians who brushed up against the law without being imprisoned.

So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise to an Illinois-jaded public that the University of Illinois Law School is dealing with its share of negative publicity, as well. The Chicago Tribune reports that the school is conducting an internal investigation into whether the school inflated LSAT test scores and GPA’s under Dean Paul Pless.

If this sounds familiar to you, there’s good reason. Just last month the law school at Villanova was censured for inflating its LSAT score and GPA data. As I discussed in a post last week, LSAT scores are an important component of a law school’s US News & World Report ranking, which is itself a key factor in prospective students’ evaluation of the institution. Law schools have an incentive to report higher LSAT scores in order to move up the rankings, attract quality students and law firm recruiters, and secure top teaching talent and donor dollars.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time the University of Illinois College of Law has been the subject of negative publicity. In 2005, emails came to light under the Freedom of Information Act showing some freewheeling dealings with prospective law students. Then state senator Chris Lauzen asked the law school to admit a student who, according to former Dean Hurd, would “almost certainly be denied admission if the process unfolds as we predict.”

The student was admitted. So much for an objective admissions process.

But pulling some strings to get a student admitted to law school is a far cry from the falsification of data. As with Villanova, Illinois Law School’s actions point to the amount of weight USN&WR really carries, and the lengths schools will go to in order to secure a higher ranking.

At the end of the day, what will I be taking away from this collation of Illinois shenanigans? First, if you’re going to be in the public eye, an aggressive comb-over may not be your best look. Second, law school hopefuls aren’t the only ones trying desperately to get higher LSAT scores.