Why 6 top law schools pulled out of US News' rankings — and what it could mean for hospitals

Six of the "T14" — the 14 law schools that have dominated U.S. News and World Report's rankings for the past 30 years — have withdrawn from the process, saying they will no longer provide data to the prestigious tiering system.

The six schools — New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University, Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard University, Stanford (Calif.) University, New York City-based Columbia University, Washington, D.C.-based Georgetown University and the University of California Berkeley — allege the ranking system hinders diversity measures, The New York Times reported Nov. 18. They said the rankings' focus on test scores, grades and postgraduate employment is incentive to provide more merit-based aid than need-based aid, a practice that can keep lower-income students out. 

Test scores specifically have been a subject of recent debate. The American Bar Association recently voted to drop the law requiring schools to use the LSAT and other standardized tests, such as the GRE, during the admittance process, Forbes reported Nov. 21. The change, expected to go into effect in the fall of 2025, has been met with mixed opinions. Some say the LSAT, which costs $215 to take, favors students who can afford to take and retake it. Others argue the bar for entry will be lowered, thus allowing admittance to students who are not likely to succeed in law school. 

Graduate schools in other sectors have removed standardized test requirements. A study published to the journal Public Health Reports on Sept. 26 found that when Boston University's school of public health dropped its GRE requirements, more diverse students were admitted, and fewer students failed the graduate program. 

On Nov. 18, William Treanor, PhD, dean of Georgetown Law, issued a statement on the school's decision to withdraw from the rankings. 

"Since our founding, public service has been at the heart of Georgetown Law’s mission. … We have also dedicated ourselves to providing the resources needed for the most promising students to attend the law school, regardless of their means," Dr. Treanor wrote. 

"For decades, the U.S. News & World Report rankings have used a scoring system that reflects a different set of priorities. Most significantly, the U.S. News scoring system discourages schools from devoting resources to helping students pursue careers in public interest, and it discourages schools from devoting resources to helping students of limited means undertake a legal education."

Although law schools and hospitals are different entities, both have historically looked to U.S. News' rankings as a competitive gauge — and a channel for good publicity. Now both are being pushed to consider the rating system's equity measures. 

In October, U.S. News data analysts responsible for the healthcare rankings announced that they had developed health equity metrics. Those involved told Becker's the new measures could soon be used to judge the top hospitals, although the publication's current "honor roll" hospitals ranked low in health equity. These prestigious hospitals, though often centered in urban areas, tend to provide less charity care for low-income and uninsured patients. 

Top law schools' effort to admit diverse populations mirrors U.S. News' adjustments to illuminate hospitals' diversity efforts. Both raise the question of who deserves access to the nation's best — be it education or healthcare — and whether prestigious institutions will welcome them.

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