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Harvard, Yale law schools to withdraw from US News & World Report rankings

Harvard Law School's Langdell Hall.Darren McCollester/Getty Images/file

Harvard and Yale law schools announced Wednesday that they would no longer participate in the rankings of US News & World Report, citing a methodology that they say ignores the core values of the legal profession.

The Ivy League schools released statements criticizing the magazine’s rankings, with Yale Law Dean Heather K. Gerken calling them “profoundly flawed.”

“[The rankings] disincentivize programs that support public interest careers, champion need-based aid, and welcome working-class students into the profession,” she said. “We have reached a point where the rankings process is undermining the core commitments of the legal profession.”

Harvard Law Dean John Manning said that, by ignoring loan-forgiveness programs and need-based financial aid, the rankings “emphasize characteristics that potentially mislead those who rely on them.”

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Instead, the magazine has contributed to “perverse incentives that influence schools’ decisions in ways that undercut student choice and harm the interests of potential students,” Manning said.

The withdrawal of two of the nation’s most prestigious law schools marks the latest controversy regarding the lists. Each year, US News & World Report ranks a variety of institutions and resources, ranging from education and finance to health and cars, based on certain criteria.

Over the years, the magazine’s annual college rankings have become highly influential, seen as signifiers of educational quality. But critics claim such rankings can be manipulated and that the statistics can be misleading.

The US News rankings are often considered by undergraduates who are applying to law school, as well as by law firms looking to hire new graduates.

The US News graduate school rankings primarily rely on two types of data: expert opinion and statistical quality indicators.

The law school rankings take into account the “successful placement of graduates, faculty resources, academic achievements of entering students, and opinions by law schools, lawyers and judges on overall program quality,” according to US News.

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Yale Law School ranked No. 1 on the 2022-2023 list of Best Law Schools, and has held that ranking consistently since 1990. Harvard Law ranked No. 4 in 2022-23, tied with Columbia Law School.

Gerken said, however, the prestige is not worth the cost to low-income students.

“The rankings system has made it increasingly difficult for law schools to provide robust support for students who serve their communities, to admit students from low-income backgrounds, and to target financial aid to the students most in need,” Gerken said in the statement.

The Yale Law School in New Haven, Conn.Christopher Capozziello/NYT/file

She said the magazine’s rankings undermine support for students seeking public interest careers and exclude loan forgiveness programs from its methodology.

“When law schools devote resources to encouraging students to pursue public interest careers, US News mischaracterizes them as low-employment schools with high debt loads,” she said.

Gerken also criticized the emphasis on LSAT/GRE scores, saying it “weighs heavily” on low-income students who are unable to afford test preparation courses.

US News & World Report executive chairman Eric Gertler said in a statement Wednesday that the magazine’s mission will not change, despite Yale’s withdrawal.

“As part of our mission, we must continue to ensure that law schools are held accountable for the education they will provide to these students and that mission does not change with this recent announcement,” said Gertler.

US News “will continue to fulfill our journalistic mission of ensuring that students can rely on the best and most accurate information,” Gertler added.

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US News’ college ratings came under fire in September when Columbia University dropped in rank from No. 2 to No. 18, after controversy erupted over inaccurate statistics submitted by the university that some said spoke to how easily the rankings can be manipulated.

In the statement, Gerken, of Yale, alleged US News had refused to rework its law school ranking criteria despite “repeated calls from law school deans to change.”

“Instead, the magazine continues to take data — much of it supplied by the law schools solely to US News — and applies a misguided formula that discourages law schools from doing what is best for legal education,” Gerken said.



Shealagh Sullivan can be reached at shealagh.sullivan@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShealaghS. Camilo Fonseca can be reached at camilo.fonseca@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @fonseca_esq.