US News & World Report issued new rankings Tuesday for the Top 14 law schools and Top 15 medical schools, just months after many schools dropped out of the rankings, saying they were unreliable and unfair.
Although US News says it has tackled some of the criticism with the new methodology, the results are still very similar.
Yale Law School, which sparked an exodus when it dropped out in November, retains its No.1 status, though it's now tied with Stanford, which was previously No.2. University of Chicago maintains No.3 position, Columbia drops to No. 8 of No. 4, tied with the University of Virginia.
In medicine, the changes are more agile. Johns Hopkins University ranks first for research, up from No. 3, replacing Harvard, which is now in third place. The University of Pennsylvania came in second, displacing New York University, which dropped to 13th.
Heather Gerken, the dean of Yale Law, was not amused by the new rankings.
“Yale Law School has never paid attention to the US News & World Report rankings, and after everything we've seen over the past year, it has only strengthened our decision to leave,” he said in a statement.
The boycott eventually spread to 12 of the top 14 law schools, all but Cornell and the University of Chicago.
Despite dropping out of the rankings, universities can have a hard time reducing their influence. US News Rankings have become something of an institution, with many students relying on them to make educational choices. Lesser-known universities—beyond the 14th or 15th marquee—also rely on it as a form of advertising and recruiting.
In a recent public relations campaign, the publication accused schools of trying to avoid accountability for student admissions and results, and it linked the boycott to a Supreme Court decision that could end affirmative action.
“Several law deans have sought ways to circumvent restrictive decisions by reducing their emphasis on test scores and grades – the criteria used in our rankings,” Eric J. Gertler, chief executive and chief executive officer of US News, wrote in a opinion essay at The Wall Street Journal.
But US News also made a conciliatory move, incorporating some criticism of the old system imposed by legal and medical administrators. The law schools, led by Yale, say the ratings are unreliable and skewed educational priorities by undermining their schools' efforts to recruit poor and working-class students. They also say the ranking penalizes schools whose students choose to enter low-paying public service law after graduation.
The publication will provide more details on the latest methodology when the full rankings are released next week, said spokeswoman Kate O'Donnell. He said he would not comment on any change in position by any particular school but added, “There has been a significant shift in the results-focused methodology.”
Robert Morse, chief data strategy for US News said in a public statement that the ranking changes “reflect insight and input from more than 100 law school deans and other law experts across the country.”
Given that many top schools have stopped working with rankings, US News should reconsider its data sources, and in some cases turn to publicly available data rather than data provided by the universities themselves. In announcing the new medical school rankings, US News said it used data from a statistical survey submitted in 2023 – or in 2022 if further data is not available – and included “publicly available metrics from the National Institutes of Health”.
The boycott resulted in much soul searching and debate among universities and students about the value of rankings. Some critics of the boycott said that while it was easy for brand-name schools like Harvard and Yale to stop working with rankings, they were a valuable tool for students applying to lesser-known or lesser-known schools.
Peter B. Rutledge, dean of the University of Georgia law school, said his school will continue to participate in the rankings because it is a source of consumer information and actually helps get positive recognition for the school.
In its announcement, US News said it had incorporated methodological changes including a significant increase in the bar travel rate weight and a significant increase in the weight assigned to jobs 10 months after graduation.
In a change primarily sought by law schools, it provides full credit towards full-time, long-term scholarships – including those that the school has funded – and for graduate study.
It also places less emphasis on institutional reputation and on median LSAT or GRE test scores and grade points.
For medical schools, the changes include the addition of National Institutes of Health grant awards as a measure of research quality, and less emphasis on institutional reputation and MCAT test scores and grade point averages.
US News only released a brief “preview” list of the Top 14 law schools and Top 15 medical schools on Tuesday — because, it says, they've received the most attention — and said it would release the full ranking report on April 18.