Thursday, July 19, 2012

More on schools reporting false debt numbers

For the past three years, Rutgers-Camden and and Georgia State (at least)* have been reporting false information regarding total graduate debt to the ABA Section of Legal Education and US News & World Report. What these schools have done is to report the average debt incurred by their graduating students in the previous year, rather than the total average debt incurred over the course of law school by their graduates.  This "mistake" understates the debt incurred by attending the school by a factor of roughly three.

It's inconceivable that the deans of these schools are unaware of this.  In March of each of the last two years, USNWR has published stories which identify these schools as among the very best bargains in legal education, based on the debt level incurred by their graduates.  Law schools pay obsessive attention to what USNWR has to say about them.  In addition, in March the ABA sent an email to every law school, asking all schools to check the debt figures reported to the ABA, in the light of some obviously anomalous figures in the published USNWR debt rankings.

As of yesterday evening (nearly four months later) the only correction that USNWR had received was from John Marshall Law School, which had over-reported the total debt of its 2011 graduates.  I have not been able to determine whether the ABA has received any corrected numbers.

What appears to have happened is this:  Nearly three years ago these schools made what at the time may have been an honest mistake in their calculations.  A few months later USNWR published the mistaken numbers, which made these schools look like among the very best bargains in legal education.  Again, it is simply incredible that the administrations of these schools did not become aware of the mistake at that point (that is, in March of 2010).  Yet not only did they not correct the false numbers: they allowed their staffs to keep making the same mistake in each of the next two years (I am giving the staffs the benefit of the doubt and assuming incompetence rather than corruption on their parts).

Let's do a quick roundup of what all this tells us:

(1)  Law schools are still publishing egregiously false data.

(2)  The ABA Section of Legal Education, which is dominated by people who are paid by law schools that would go out of business in a more rational regulatory environment, pays no attention to (1) unless forced by public pressure to do so.

(3) US News & World Report has no interest in calling up the deans of schools that keep giving the ABA fake numbers, to ask them why they're lying to the ABA and to USNWR.  Instead, USNWR publishes stories based on false data and considers its work done unless the people giving them false data actually contact these "journalists" themselves, to inform them that the data the stories are based on are false.

(4) Schools like Rutgers-Camden and Georgia State are apparently now so desperate that they prefer to allow positive stories regarding the schools based on false data to remain uncorrected, rather than correcting the record (not to mention ensuring that the ABA and USNWR receive accurate information going forward).

*The 2011 debt figures for Southern University, Texas Southern, and Barry also look extremely questionable, but I haven't looked specifically into the situation at these schools yet. Drexel has a very low number, but my understanding is that the school's entering class paid very little or no tuition, which may well explain their reported debt figure for the class of 2011.

Update:  Barry University presents a particularly bizarre variation on this theme. The school appears to have reported the debt level of graduates correctly in 2009 ($107K, a figure in line with that of other lower-tier Florida private law schools at the time), but then reported debt levels of $39K and $41K for the 2010 and 2011 classes -- figures which obviously need to be multiplied by three.

Update II:

Great catch by a commenter at LGM, who points out that Judge Schweitzer's decision dismissing the suit against New York Law School took judicial notice of the "fact" that USNWR publishes "a plethora of information" that "sophisticated consumers" of legal education can reasonably rely upon. From the judge's opinion:

“Plaintiffs’ complaint also compares NYLS with its law school peers as reflected in the rankings of US News. Notwithstanding that plaintiffs do not challenge the quality of the education they received, the complaint asserts that because NYLS finds itself in the bottom tier of the US News law school rankings, “logic dictates that NYLS’s true employment rate would be below the statistical mean of the bell curve.” Amended Complaint, ¶ 58. One would think that reasonable consumers, armed with the publicly available information from US News that plaintiffs cite, thus would avail themselves of plaintiffs’ own logic as stated in their complaint when it comes to evaluating their chances of obtaining the full-time legal job of their choice within nine months post-graduation.

Indeed, the court takes judicial notice (see People v Darby, 263 A.D.2d 112, 114 [1st Dept 2000]) that US News, in addition to its general law school rankings to which plaintiffs themselves refer in their complaint, has published a plethora of information ranking law schools, including NYLS, in a number of job-related categories including: “Whose graduates are the most and least likely to land a job?,” “Whose graduates earn the most? The Least?,” “Where do graduates work?,” “Who’s the priciest? Who’s the cheapest?,” “Whose graduates have the most debt? The Least?.” See, e.g., Ultimate Guide to Law Schools, US News and World, L.P. Report, 2d ed (2006).6″
(Emphasis added).

The commenter adds: "So . . . the public source which Judge Schweitzer held reasonable consumers should use to check the accuracy of law school statistics before enrolling also supplies the prospective students with false data."


  1. LawProf just continues to bring the heat. A+.

  2. I'm assuming that the deans and presidents of these law schools are attorneys licensed in their respective states. If so, some resident of those states absolutely must file a complaint with the state's lawyer disciplinary board over this.

  3. Are there anything like "standing" requirements to file such a complaint? I'm a Jersey resident and a RU-N law grad, and not admitted to the bar. I'd file a complaint, but I'm not sure if I'm even allowed to, or that it would mean anything.

  4. Did universities and law schools always behave this way? Or has the upsurge in demand for education and unlimited supply of federal loan dollars simply given schools power where none existed before? I imagine universities have always considered themselves elite. Maybe the best endgame we can hope for is to tame the beast. Getting people to change their attitude seems a lot less likely.

  5. I can't wrap my head around how that would matter. Sure they get a few extra dollars in applications, but as soon as the applicant realizes he or she isn't getting significant scholarship aid and has to debt finance much more than "average debt" for that school, then he or she will just go elsewhere.

  6. 7:21,
    Anyone can file an ethics complaint although it's less likely they'll take you seriously if you're not a lawyer or do anything if you're not a client that was screwed over by your lawyer.

  7. It would matter because RU-C is perilously close to the bottom of the USNWR top 100 list. Fall into the dregs of "unranked" and you're in big trouble.

    Given all the positive press they got for being such a cheap school, it's not unreasonable to think the name recognition and "bargain shopper" boost from that press helped their ranking in no small amount.

  8. On further reflection I'm amazed that USNWR would even publish a story about "best value" using average debt as the baseline. I know they're leading the race to the bottom but at least do some investigation and analysis regarding tuition, scholarships granted and cost of living around the law school.

  9. The Dean of Rutgers is admitted in Illinois, the Assistant Dean for Enrolment in PA and the Dean for Careers in NJ.

  10. Okay so a really cursory scan of the NJ Court's website makes it look like I could file a complaint. I'm not sure what the point would be - a bit of shaming pressure, perhaps? Would such a thing even get them to change?

  11. For what it's worth: Drexel accepted its first class in fall 2006. At that point it was not accredited and its building was not complete, so it held classes in various location on and off the Drexel campus. Word in the legal community in the area was that it was offering its first few classes essentially free tuition. (I cannot verify this but it makes sense.) Its first class graduated in 2009. Since Drexel did not become fully accredited until 2011, and is competing against five or six other schools in the region (depending on whether you count Penn State/Dickinson), it seems likely that it is still offering big incentives. So the Drexel number may actually be correct.


  12. RPL, PSU sent 10 grads to Philly for the class of 2011.


  13. Well Dickinson always a central PA school. Guess that hasn't changed now that it is part of PSU.


  14. My thoughts, as this does seem to be a very serious matter that should have wider publicity:

    1) LP, forward your last two posts to the editor of whatever newspapers reside in Camden and/or greater NJ (if NJ still has newspapers in 2012). Else, just send it to the education editor at the NY Times.

    2) Also forward them the working paper "Law Deans in Jail" by Emory Law Profs Morgan Cloud and George B. Shepherd, which nicely lays out the potential crimes (mail fraud, misleading statements, etc) that may have been committed here.

    3) Enjoy the fireworks!

  15. Dean Rayman Solomon is a member of the Illinois Bar - non practicing (he nerve actually ever seems to have practiced law - he was a "bar historian" instead) - you can find his record here

    The associate dean for enrollment at Rutgers - and probably the person responsible for the misleading information is Camille Andrews - who cough, cough, teaches legal ethics !!! The mind boggles. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar - record is as follows

    Camille Spinello Andrews
    PA Attorney ID: 47307
    Current Status: Active
    Date of Admission: 11/21/1986
    Other Organization: Context Capital Partners, LP
    District: 2
    County: Montgomery
    401 CITY AVENUE STE 815
    BALA CYNWYD, PA 19004
    Tel: 610 538-6102
    Fax: 610 660-5000
    Professional Liability Insurance: I do not maintain Professional Liability Insurance because I do not have private clients and have no possible exposure to malpractice actions (e.g. retired, full-time in-house counsel, prosecutor, full-time government counsel, etc.).

    The Associate Dean of Students and Career Planning - another person with responsibility is Angela V. Baker She is an active member of the New Jersey Bar:

    NJ Attorney ID : 028081985
    Bar Admission Date : 12/23/1985

  16. no possible exposure to malpractice. the final word on whether these assholes think what they do has any relation to the world of lawyering.

    think a med school professor or dean would simply abrogate HIPAA so flippantly?

  17. law prof is like a dominant action figure in the world of scamblogging--the MEGATRON of scambloggers!

  18. If you're going to be forwarding anything to a newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer is the paper of record for South NJ.

  19. Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons, the bad guys in the Transformers universe.

    If you view Law Prof as a good guy with great strength and courage, maybe he should be called Omega Supreme.

    Then again, whoever is the good guy or bad guy depends on your point of view.

  20. Optimus Prime... not Omega.

  21. “Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”

  22. Comments seem kind of dull without JD Painter to liven them up.

  23. Optimus Prime can only tansform into a big rig. Omega Supreme can turn into an entire battle station. His motto (per Wikipedia): Unyielding resolve has no conqueror.

  24. Schweitzer's opinion overall is probably a net positive (scammer schools owe duties beyond the law) but judicial notice of a publication that has had numerous retractions, changes, and scandals is a cringeworthy 1L level error.

  25. Law Prof: Reflecting on the last two posts, are we to understand that USNWR does no fact checking but simply publishes, uncritically, whatever drivel is reported to it? I confess that, after almost a year reading this blog, I am pretty much inurred to law schools gaming the system, making "mistakes" that make them look better and occasionally outright lying. But I had supposed that an organization that styles itself a news magazine might do some minimal level of verification. (OK: I know it wasn't a very good news magazine and that nobody read it, which is why it came up with a swimsuit edition -- oops! college/law school/medical center ranking edition. Still, you would think even a journalistic looser would have some self respect.) Apparently I am being naive and that if RC had reported an average salary of $130,000 (probably pretty close to true if you count three years of salary) USNWR would publish it.


  26. At this point we just need to start beating the ever loving shit out of any law profs and adminis we encounter because nobody is doing a goddamn thing about anything. Not the ABA, not judges who should know better, not politicians. Like most things related to entrenched power the only path to change is violence.

    And yes, I'm employing hyperbole.

  27. @7:21
    There is no standing requirement that I am aware under the Model Rules. In Tennessee to file a complaint you need a pencil, a piece of paper and a stamp.

  28. As a non-lawyer (I almost made the mistake of going to law school about 15 years ago but fate thankfully saved me), what I find amazing is that here you have Universities, beacons of intellectual honesty and inquiry, doing some pretty sleazy things with no consequences.

    If you were going to try to market a pencil that you claimed wrote better than all other pencils, the FTC would be all over your case.

  29. BreezyWheezy

    Most states require the target of a complaint to reply within a certain time frame. If you don't you are automatically suspended. It is a pain to respond, I'm told, even to a baseless complaint and the actions under discussion do not comprise a baseless complaint. Depending on the state, complaints are taken very seriously. I know they are in TN.

  30. RPL:

    I understand it would be unreasonable to expect USNWR to independently verify all the information law schools send it. What's outrageous is that the publication engages in pure stenography: if a law school reports something to USNWR, even if what it's reporting is obviously absurd on its face (such as Rutgers Camden grads having one third the debt of Rutgers Newark grads, or Barry grads seeing their debt decline by 65% in one year), the school simply publishes it no questions ever asked.

    Beyond that, the publication asks no questions even AFTER it's been altered by other sources that the data it is relying on is bogus. This is "journalism" in name only.

  31. Every generation has the group that's going to get screwed to benefit the powerful and appease the masses.

    For this generation, the sacrificed will be graduates of lower and medium tiered higher education institutions. In fact, this may even extend to the lower portions of the upper tiers.

    (Of course, this does not apply to those born with money).

    The cop and plumber who barely graduated high school will be happy to pay the extra tax dollars to the power brokers, i.e. defaulted student loans with interest, in exchange for the destruction of those that tried to do something that required a little more effort and skill; thus, they benefit by experiencing an ego boost and a confirmation that their decision not to strive for excellence was prudent. In turn, the power brokers will be happy to get the guaranteed Federal dollars (with interest of course), while also depressing the wages of a substantial portion of the labor employed by the private sector (indebted people will tolerate alot).

    It is what it is. If you want more, you know what to do: make the politicians happy, and you make the politicians happy by voting in the right way or paying in the right way.

  32. Yeah 10:37, the rest of us are just thrilled to pay extra tax dollars for the defaulted student loans because it gives us an ego boost. You are out of your fucking mind.

  33. You also need to look at student-faculty ratio. For example, Hofstra has a better student-faculty ratio in us news than St. John's but they have about the same size faculty and Hofstra has a lot more students!

  34. Shweitzer's opinion is a classic example of the law being only as just as the person who applies it. The mental hoops he jumped through to conclude applicants couldn't/shouldn't be misled are incredible.

  35. What was NYLS's reported average debt at graduation number during the years the plaintiffs were applying? I suppose LST might have that.

  36. We have debt data as far back as the Class of 2008, which, I believe, was available starting in March 2009.

    Camden (c/o 2008): $25,763

    Barry (c/o 2008): $99,759

    Atlanta's John Marshall (c/o 2008): $60,688 [mentioning this just because it's tripled in 4 years -- wow]

    GA State (c/o 2008): $18,680

    Texas Southern (c/o 2008): $23,000

    NYLS (c/o 2008): $125,319

  37. This is awesome!


  38. Kind of funny:

    USNews isn't the only one passing on erroneous information...though obviously I forgive a part time blogger much more easily.

  39. Meanwhile, in flyover country:

    I won't repeat the comments section analysis.

  40. Fucking buttholes.

  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

  42. Another EXCELLENT question from JD Painter.

  43. "The commenter adds: 'So . . . the public source which Judge Schweitzer held reasonable consumers should use to check the accuracy of law school statistics before enrolling also supplies the prospective students with false data.'"

    Yes. If someone at the top of the legal profession would be misled in reasonably relying on the published statistics, then what hope does someone have before he or she hasn't even started law school?

    Does it not make the opinion a complete nonsense, then? If the numbers are not published to be relied on by anyone acting reasonably, then what place did they have in being used to throw the plaintiffs out of court?

  44. JDPainter, usually any computer from a state government office will show up that way--so while it's possible that someone might be launching an investigation (state AG's consumer protection division?) it's more likely that state government employees who are buried in debt have found your blog. Also, you are missed here.

  45. ***"Also, you are missed here."***

    Speak for yourself, because you're sure not speaking for me!!!

  46. JD Painter:

    Good to hear back from you!

    Don't take everyone's comments too seriously - some people posting can be very snippy - I've had run-ins w/ 'em myself and can't help but wonder: shouldn't we be uniting against someone else instead of ourselves? One of the scamblog's biggest weaknesses is the tendency of every comment section to break up into cringe-worthy inter-battles amongst the commentators that often have nothing to do with the subject at hand. I can't help but think about how much further things could possibly be if all that pent-up energy was directed to the people who screwed us instead of ourselves...

  47. heads need to roll for this....

  48. So is this judge a closet law school schill? Maybe a future prof?

  49. I was in Disneyland last week with my family (yes, life is still quite good at times). On the Jungle Cruise ride there is the world famous Schweitzer Walls.

    Schweitzer's opinion is little more than the "back side of water."

    It makes me smile every time.

  50. the total average debt incurred over the course of law school by their graduates. This "mistake" understates the debt incurred by attending the school by a factor of roughly three. plumber chino hills

  51. Since marriage is a permanent bond between two love ones, roses are very
    much preferred for dcor of wedding place. Fortunately,
    our minister has neither, and he's asked very little of us as well. 4.

    Also visit my web blog; wedding website affiliate program
    Also see my web page > the knot wedding website amanda isgate and brandon hicks

  52. Natural remedies are deemed highly efficient, cost effective, and significantly safe to use.
    Implementing these changes in your life, will
    be effective remedies against recurrent yeast infections, when undertaken
    with a holistic yeast infection treatment program that will kill the yeast infection from the inside out.
    Candida bacteria feed on other weakened friendly bacteria
    in the human body.

    my blog post - yeast infection and pregnancy and treatment

  53. You should never stop investigating, researching and
    analysing the market to be reactive and play the main role on your market.
    of the Yahoo community. If this kind of business you are looking for or planning to go into just for the reason that
    you wanted to consult or even handle those promotions for other businesses,
    well then, make sure that don’t fail to notice the opportunity to point
    out those costumers or clients of yours who are potentials in
    which you grow your own business with the very techniques you wanted to provide to them.

    Feel free to surf to my web site - Internet Marketing Plan
    Also see my web site :: Internet Marketing Tips

  54. With the increasing fan base your product sale will also
    considerably increase and your marketing objectives will be easily achieved.
    Buy facebook fans are actually referred to now as Facebook, but often are used
    interchangeably. It gives you info such as fan interaction and visitor demographics
    but it is limited and can't provide info on sources of traffic, keyword data and other sophisticated data.

    my webpage ::

  55. There are many sources to choose from that can offer simple solutions to the problems you are experiencing with your canine.

    Another tip is to start with the basic skills.
    --LINK REMOVED dog training articles


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.