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Do Law School Rankings Harm Diversity?

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy questions the premise of a recent law review article asserting that law schools' overemphasis on rankings  and LSAT scores is hurting black enrollment. As reported in USA Today, John Nussbaumer, an associate dean at Michigan's Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in an article this month in the St. John's University Law Review, says that fewer blacks are making the admissions cutoff as law schools demand higher LSAT scores. The USA Today report says:

"Blacks are getting denied at the gate, Nussbaumer says, because schools are increasingly concerned with LSAT scores: The average law student's score has jumped from 154.3 in 2001 to 157.3 in 2005. And because blacks as a group consistently score about 9 points below the national average, a heightened focus on that one benchmark means blacks are getting a disproportionate share of rejection letters."

But Bernstein says he is skeptical that this trend, purportedly driven by the U.S. News & World Report rankings, would lead to this decline. He says:

"Any law school that wanted to admit more black students without affecting its U.S. News score could simply matriculate black students with LSATs below its median, instead of white students who also had LSATs below its median. This would not affect U.S. News rank at all, even if the black students had much lower average LSATs than the white students."

Bernstein finds good news in the article, noting that the ABA is making efforts to encourage minority students to consider law school early in their education.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on April 27, 2006 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

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