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March 28, 2014

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Chip

"I'm not sure I'd go that far because this wasn't a new policy. W&M hired 41 of its 204 grads from the class of 2012."

You are incorrect here. The class of 2012 employment stats were the basis for the "2015" rankings released this month. For the Class of 2011, W&M hired no grads in full time long term positions: http://law.wm.edu/careerservices/documents/ABA%20Class%20of%202011%20Placement%20Summary.pdf So it was an entirely new policy for the Class of 2012 which figured into the 2015 rankings, and the its rankings jump seems largely due to this:

See chart comparing data from "2014" to "2015" rankings here:
http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/03/us-news--1.html

W&M has one more strange figure in the rankings data -- its student faculty ratio went down from 14.0 to 11.1.

Chip

You are incorrect when you say this was not a new policy for W&M. The "2015" rankings released this month were based on Class of 2012 employment numbers, and this is the first year W&M had school funded long term jobs. For the Class of 2011, W&M had zero school funded long term full time jobs: http://law.wm.edu/careerservices/documents/ABA%20Class%20of%202011%20Placement%20Summary.pdf. The impact was dramatic on their year to year employment numbers and hence their US News ranking, as shown the in chart here: http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/03/us-news--1. (The same chart also has their student faculty ratio going down from 14.0 to 11.1, I am not sure what explains that).

Spenny

I would draw a clear line between W&M's new policy for hiring its own grads and its rankings jump. It hired 0 grads from the Class of 2011, and 41 grads for the Class of 2012. The current rankings are based on the Class of 2012, so this new policy made all the difference. Without these hires, i think it would have fallen in the rankings.

E

Spending money on anything ultimately reflected in the US News rankings, including hiring high profile (expensive) professors to improve your reputation, “buying” LSAT scores, inundating voters with glossy brochures, or tasking professors to help students with bar passage, could be characterized as “juicing” your ranking. Someone needs to explain why this behavior (generating legal employment at public interest entities for unemployed grads), which unlike many others has obvious value to students, is the “wrong” way to move up the rankings, while all the other behaviors that influence the rankings are ok.

Spenny

E -- I would say that it is giving a false impression of the actual employment rate for the school when these jobs are counted the same as a job at Cravath, when they pay minimally and disappear after a year. I do not think the purpose of law school is to have a job that pays minimally and disappears after a year.

I am not saying all these other things to juice numbers are therefore okay. Buying LSATs is a problem which is widespread -- what W&M has done is done by a handful of schools and skews the rankings considerably. I do not share your concern about takings profs to help students with bar passage, that should be done regardless of rankings.

terry malloy

Employing your students, and reporting them as employed, intentionally obscures the real employment outcomes of potential students. Full Stop.

Ellen

E: The employment numbers are what's most important to prospective students, so in addition to improving ranking, it misleads prospect, which is more troubling than the US News aspect.

Moreover, it has a direct impact on ranking while some of the other things you mention do not, such as the hiring of a star prof (some voters may not care) or the glossy brochures (most of which end up in the recycle bin -- unread) or the bar help from a prof (who knows if it helped and I agree with Spenny, that should be part of their jobs).

CHS

These studies are always incomplete. There is a difference between a school-funded job that helps students get into scarce and competitive public interest jobs and hiring students to work at the school. What would help would be a breakout of the types of jobs and how many times they actually do give people a job or increase their chances of getting one.

Jojo

I'm fine with these jobs, with one caveat. Employment surveys should ask another question: "if you reported a full-time, long term, bar passage required job, how long do you expect it to last? A) Indefinitely, but more than one year; B) Indefinitely, but for less than a year; C) Until one pay period after the reporting deadline.

Ferdie

"Are Law Schools Juicing Employment Numbers?"

lol. Was that written by Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf?

E

All these questions/concerns are addressed in the NPR piece (did people listen to it?). They are public interest jobs that do lead to non-school-funded positions. The report concludes that it is unfortunate that more schools are NOT doing this.

CHS

I read the piece associated with the radio segment, and it says that W & M climbed in the rankings by reporting school funded jobs/fellowships, suggesting that this was a serious problem. The article quotes a student from UVA, not W&M, who got a job after a fellowship. It it not clear that all fellowships are really of the type that lead to permanent law jobs. If the radio segment spells this out better than the article-- which is also for public consumption-- good.

Chip

E - A lot of people who get jobs in year 2 are not counted in the employment numbers. I think someone who gets a school funded job in year one which leads to a non-school funded job in year 2 should be counted like someone who is unemployed in year 1 and gets a non-school funded job in year 2. I think it is better all around to do employment counts in year 2 rather than 9 months out -- but since the count is at 9 months out, school funded jobs should not count, regardless of what happens to them or others later.

Anon

School funded jobs seem fine if they lead to a permanent job, can't imagine why anyone would oppose such help, but if they are just designed to juice the numbers, can't imagine why anyone would support them. Obviously, schools should make data available so students can determine whether it is a meaningful program or one constructed solely for USNWR.

ALS Alum in Search of a Snappy Username

A second but related problem is that the (minimal but non-zero) dollars for school-funded jobs come out of the school's coffers directly or indirectly. Given the still rising cost of attendance at law schools and that cost of attendance is not a US News ranking factor, school funded positions give a school the opportunity to use incoming student Peter's money/debt to pay recent graduate Paul. In other words, school funded positions both mislead potential students and may be doing so with their own money. That math also encourages schools to continue to increase class size despite the contracted market for graduate employment (e.g., W&M's entering class of 2017 was up by 31 students). The added tuition of more Peters can be used to offset the unemployed Pauls in the short term, continuing the cycle. How's that for a moral hazard?

Earvin Larry Jordan

As enrollment goes down across the board, these programs will probably be reduced, as there will be less law school graduates for the number of jobs available.

ALS Alum in Search of a Snappy Username

That is assuming that enrollment contracts to less than or close to the number of new lawyer jobs. Right now we are at roughly 40k new students for 25k new lawyer jobs. That's quite a ways to go before this becomes a non-issue.

ATLprof

ALS Alum in Search: "A second but related problem is that the (minimal but non-zero) dollars for school-funded jobs come out of the school's coffers directly or indirectly. Given the still rising cost of attendance at law schools and that cost of attendance is not a US News ranking factor, school funded positions give a school the opportunity to use incoming student Peter's money/debt to pay recent graduate Paul."

Yep. That's a problem, and one that is similar to the problem with tuition discounting, only there, the Peters and Pauls are in the same class. There's been quite a bit of discussion of that in the recent decisions of some schools to go to lower flat tuition charges (see e.g. La Vergne).

I just wanted to amplify what you said in that it is actuality a bit worse than you indicated. You said cost of attendance is not a US News ranking factor- when in fact it very much is - but in reverse of the way you were thinking of it. Higher tuition actually raises rankings. It does this in several indirect ways, but also in one direct way. The amount of money is a direct factor in the rankings. More money spent = higher ranking. So increasing tuition to allow you to add hires of alums to goose employment numbers helps both in terms of employment numbers and money spent.

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