As I've been embroiled in an interstate move, I've been a little out of the loop re discussions about law school applications being down, difficulties of maintaining student credentials in this market etc. But it seems that in recent weeks as the dust settles from last year's admissions process, the story is that a number of schools are taking smaller classes in order to maintain credentials and this in turn causes serious financial hardships for those schools.
Am I missing something or is this largely U.S. News driven? Admissions offices are struggling so hard to maintain GPA and LSAT scores in a shrinking student market that the figures just don't add up and classes are shrinking dramatically. There may be many good reasons to reduce class sizes and maintain a certain level of student credentials e.g. ensuring that admitted students will be successful both in school and in the workplace thereafter. However, if we're all honest, how much of the pressure to maintain credentials comes from fear of dropping in the U.S. News rankings?
If the U.S. News is having a disproportionate affect on class size (when measured against other reasons a school might choose to shrink the class size), isn't it time for schools and students to stop relying so heavily on these rankings? I've met a number of students in recent years happily ensconced at third and fourth tier schools, even though they could transfer to 'higher ranked' schools because they are pleased with the level of student/instructor interaction and support and they are confident in job placement and bar passage at those schools. Can we not give students credit for making decisions about where they want to study outside the rankings?
I don't want to sound naive here, but law schools seem to be on the eve of some significant changes in terms of the nature and value of legal education and the likelihood of students finding jobs. Can we put rankings to the side and focus on the questions that should be more important in changing times?