U. of I.’s plunge reflects the damage done by publishing fraudulent admission data. The university admitted in September that the grades and test scores of incoming classes had been inflated for several years.
Paul Pless, the law school’s admissions dean, resigned in November after an internal investigation found that he had falsified the data. Ironically, the investigation also reported that the law school was intensely focused on improving the academic credentials in an effort to improve the school’s ranking in U.S. News.
U.S. News did not go back and change past rankings when the U. of. I. informed the magazine of the inaccurate admissions data. As a result, the drop in the rankings was anticipated. Data for the rankings was collected after the university had acknowledged the inflated admissions data.
The lower ranking is likely just the beginning of the fallout from the admissions scandal. The American Bar Association, which regulates law schools, is looking into the infractions and could sanction the law school. The school’s damaged reputation also could reduce the number of applications, which could affect the quality of future classes.
In a statement in response to the drop in the rankings, university spokesperson Robin Kaler, said “Fall 2011 was a challenging period for the College of Law, but its defining attribute — its track record of producing great lawyers — has never been stronger. We are confident that the College will continue to be recognized among the nation’s outstanding law schools.”
Median grade-point average and score on Law School Admission Test serve as benchmarks for the quality of students admitted to a law school, and make up 22.5 percent of the score used to determine the rankings.
For the class that entered law school in 2011, the median LSAT score was 163, which was four points lower than the fake score the school gave the magazine for last year’s rankings. The 2011 class’ median LSAT score had been reported as 168 on the law school’s web site before the university uncovered the inaccuracy.
As it turns out, the 2010 class’s LSAT score was not inflated, the school reported last fall. But the 2010 class’ GPA was falsely reported as 3.8, when it was 3.6
The 2011 class’ GPA was 3.7. The average had been inaccurately reported on the law school’s web site last fall as 3.81.
Robert Morse, director of data research at U.S. News, said the schools are so tightly bunched in the rankings that a four-point drop in the LSAT score has a large effect on a school’s ranking.
But lower test scores and GPA average were not the only factors that hurt U. of I.’s ranking, Morse said. U.S. News also asks law school deans and faculty members to rate programs on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. U. of I.’s “peer assessment score” fell from 3.5 to 3.1, Morse said.