Monday, March 29, 2021

Your annual reminder that movements in the US rankings are almost all meaningless

With the new nonsense numbers about to appear, it's worth reminding everyone (and especially journalists) that:  95% of movement in the US "overall" rank is attributable to (1) schools puffing, fudging or lying about the self-reported data more than their peers (or the reverse, for those schools that drop); or (2) simply being more aggressive at  manipulating the metrics they can control than their peers (or the reverse, for schools that drop in the overall ranking). 

Remember that US audits none of the self-reported data on job placement, expenditures, student credentials, faculty-student ratios etc..   Schools can also inflate their rank by shrinking the size of their 1L class (thus improving median credentails), and taking more transfers or LLM students, among other "tricks of the trade."

Any journalist that reports a change in US News rank as "news" without further investigation of the underlying "data" is perpetuating a fraud on the public.

ADDENDUM:  As law professor Derek Muller (Iowa) reminds me, some movement this year will be due to the new criterion US added:  5% of the total score will factor in a mix of average debt (for those students with debt) and the percentage of students with debt.  To make room for this, they arbitrarily reduced the weights of some of the other factors by small amounts (e.g., expenditures, student credentials) in their arbitrarily weighted stew of factors.  This change will, of course, lead to new forms of "gaming" the rankings, which I'll write about soon.

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