Bad Ideas, Cardozo Law School, Law Schools, Money, Rankings, U.S. News

Law School’s Guerrilla Campaign To Inflate Its U.S. News Rank Turns Out To Be Too Dumb To Inflate Its U.S. News Rank

I almost feel bad for Cardozo. Yesterday, we reported on how Cardozo was trying to convince the class of 2011 to give money to the school on the theory that even a small donation will help the school move up in the U.S. News law school rankings, thus increasing the “value” of a Cardozo Law degree. Yeah, the campaign isn’t about how giving more money will deliver more value to Cardozo students in terms of job opportunities or educational experience. It’s just a hard sell that a higher ranking equals “value,” and an instruction on how Cardozo alums can help the school game the system.

And it turns out that the strategy isn’t even an effective way to game the rankings. The school is actually wrong about how the rankings work.

Look, I have to be one of the foremost authorities on “stupid things law schools do” in America. I believe I meet all of the Daubert requirements to be qualified as an expert on this topic on the Internet. In my expert capacity, I hereby testify that this Cardozo thing is the dumbest alumni giving campaign I’ve ever seen….

After yesterday’s story went up, University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter, who writes Leiter’s Law School Reports, pointed out to us that Cardozo’s fundamental theory of U.S. News was wrong.

Here’s what the Cardozo email said:

Did you know that one of the factors that US News considers in its rankings is percentage of alumni who participate in annual giving?

It’s true. Your gift to the law school can actually increase the value of your own degree

Turns out, it’s not true. Leiter tells us that the percentage of alumni participation is a factor in the U.S. News rankings for colleges and universities, but not for law schools.

Our own ATL Rankings guru Brian Dalton quickly confirmed. You can see here that the U.S. News methodology for colleges mentions alumni participation percentage, but the methodology for law schools makes no such mention.

But make no mistake, Cardozo was trying to “game” the rankings. Yesterday, people suggested that Cardozo was just trying to pump up alumni giving and was using U.S. News as a hook to convince people to give money. If you look at the version of the email that was sent to the class of 2010, the point is made more obvious that the school was looking for “token,” perfunctory donations that have less to do with the school’s fundraising efforts and everything to do with the school’s attempt to climb up the U.S. News ladder.

Dear Classmates,

Did you know that one of the factors U.S. News considers in its rankings is percentage of alumni who participate in annual giving? The gift’s size is irrelevant, surprisingly, so a gift of just $1 is sufficient for this purpose. Your donation will actually increase the value of your own degree. Let us return our alma mater to the first tier!

While we have Cardozo’s hand caught in the cookie jar, let’s take a step back. Cardozo charges people $49,476 a year to go to law school. It’s wedged in the New York market, offering the promise of “Biglaw” to the students who come, yet it has an LST employment score of just 53%. It didn’t crack our ATL top 50, because in the hyper-competitive market for New York City legal jobs, Columbia, NYU, and Fordham, and even Seton Hall and Rutgers Camden, do a better job of placing students in real, full-time positions. This is a school that is charging an awful lot, and yet not delivering on the job opportunities its students anticipated when they came to the city.

And I say all this not to make fun of or denigrate Cardozo, its students, or its faculty. They are hardworking people; they have great facilities and brilliant faculty members. And yet instead of marshaling those considerable resources to come up with creative approaches and reforms to their system of legal education and their method of providing job opportunities to students, the administration instead says, “Hey, give a dollar to return ‘Dozo to the top tier.” Not “Cardozo is going to re-double its efforts to provide employment outcomes on par with top tier schools.” Just “Derp, U.S. News rankings, there’s gotta be a way to work those.”

This just seems to be the kind of quick-fix mentality that permeates law school administrations. In response to the real decline in the value of legal education, too many law schools are looking to mask the decline instead of halting it. Too many law schools are focused on how they can trick the next class of students into signing up, instead of trying to figure out how to provide value to the next generation of lawyers.

So maybe, and I’m just spit-balling here, but maybe instead of trying to game the U.S. News rankings, or complaining about bad press coverage, Cardozo could actually focus on GETTING JOBS FOR STUDENTS SO THEY CAN GET VALUE FROM THEIR LAW DEGREES!

When you were charging these people $50K a year, were you telling them that the “value” of their degree was tied to how well (or in this case, “not” well) the school games the U.S. News rankings? More importantly, are you charging people less because the school is “not first tier” right now? The school is asking people to help artificially inflate the value of something it has already made them pay for, instead of APOLOGIZING for selling them something that wasn’t as valuable as they had been led to believe.

Look, alumni giving campaigns to recent grads in this economy are hard. I appreciate that. But telling people that the way to maximizes the value of their degree by gaming a magazine is cynical and embarrassing.

And it turns out to be factually wrong. So what does that do for value?

Earlier: Law School Illustrates Everything Wrong With Law Schools and U.S. News Rankings In One Email

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