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.
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″
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."