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U.S. News & World Report responds to law, medical school departures from rankings

FILE – Students walk through the Harvard Law School area on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., on Nov. 19, 2002. U.S. News & World Report announced Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, that it will change how its rankings of law schools are calculated in response to a boycott by a number of top programs. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki, File)

The head of U.S. News and World Report responded to the departure of several medical and law schools throughout the country from its rankings, saying the organization is one of the only places for students to compare institutions based on the factors that matter most to them. 

Eric Gertler, the CEO and executive chairman of U.S. News and World Report, said in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week that students would have trouble finding accurate, comprehensive information to compare potential colleges and universities they might attend without the rankings. 

“Our rankings don’t capture every nuance. Academic institutions aren’t monolithic or static; comparing them across a common data set can be challenging,” Gertler said. “But we reject our critics’ paternalistic view that students are somehow incapable of discerning for themselves from this information which school is the best fit.” 

Harvard and Yale universities’ law schools both announced in November that they would leave the rankings after their officials decided against the methodology used, which they said is partly based on how much debt a student has and disincentivizes need-based financial aid. 

Since then, most of the top law schools in the country have followed Harvard and Yale’s lead in departing the rankings, and some medical schools, including Harvard’s, have also dropped out based on issues with how the results are determined or the idea of rankings altogether.

Gertler criticized the “elite” schools that have left the rankings, saying that their decisions do not reflect the majority of institutions. He said almost 75 percent of the schools outside the top 14 that submitted surveys for the rankings in 2022 did so again in 2023, while engagement among medical schools rose this year. 

“Our rankings also don’t prevent any school from pursuing greater diversity or transparency. Nor do they seem to prod schools to shine light on the most opaque part of admissions: how schools decide who they accept,” he wrote.

“Instead, elite schools object to our use of a common data set for all schools because our rankings are something they can’t control and they don’t want to be held accountable by an independent third party,” Gertler continued. 

The rankings have also received criticism from top federal officials, including Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, who has gone after their significance. He said in August that the system rankings are a “joke” and denounced institutions focusing on rising in the rankings. 

He reportedly said at an event that Harvard Law School held on Wednesday that institutions should “stop worshipping at the false altar of U.S. News and World Report.” 

The Journal op-ed is only one of the ways U.S. News has hit back at its critics this week. On Wednesday, it also took out a full-page advertisement in The Boston Globe and called on law schools to release more data about themselves in an open letter to Cardona, The New York Times reported.

Tags Miguel Cardona U.S. News and World Report

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