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USNWR Law School Rankings are Bad News


It’s no secret that it’s expensive to go to law school. But when a public school (UC Hastings) ranked 39th charges more for tuition than a private school (Stanford) ranked 3rd; something is very, very wrong. We naturally thought the recession was to blame. As state governments slash funding to universities, public schools have to raise tuition to keep their doors open. But it turns out the culprit might be the ranking system, itself.

Here at MSS, it’s no secret that we aren’t too impressed with USNWR and their law school rankings. But what began as a flawed methodology has taken an insidious turn. In this just-released report, the Government Accountability Office places a large portion of the blame for the rising cost of law schools on USNWR, claiming that the competition for schools to increase their ranking is raising the costs for students.

In order to stay competitive in the rankings, schools are paying more to keep and retain the best faculty. They’re also increasing costs on student expenditures and resources. While faculty retention and increased student resources are good things, one can’t help but wonder if law school is worth the return on investment. From 1995 to 2007, public school tuition (in-state) rose annually by an average of 7.2 percent with out-of-state tuition rising by an annual average of 4.8 percent. Additionally, the average debt for graduates of public law schools rose from around $50,000 to $71,436 between 2001-02 to 2007-08.

In the short term, exercise due diligence and make sure that becoming an attorney is worth the cost of admission. In the long term, it sounds like it’s time to overhaul the rankings.