Yet another person weighs in on the proposed changes to the US NEWS ranking methodology. Missed it? Check out part 1 and part 2, along with The Shark coverage of part 1 and part 2. This time it's Professor Trachtenberg in an article from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Professor Trachtenberg cautions that combining part-time and full-time LSAT scores may encourage ranking obsessed schools to ditch the lower scores associated with part-time students and even abandon the part-time program altogether. If part-time programs disappear then so do the opportunities for some students who are unwilling or unable to reach the legal profession through the traditional day program.
I'm not convinced that combining part-time and full-time scores will help prospective students, law schools, or the rankings, but it would be truly tragic if part-time programs disappear.
Professor Trachtenberg is absolutely correct that part-time programs serve a unique segment of the law student population and we should not lose sight of their value in trying to level the playing field for full-time rankings. He passes on some very simple advice from Fred Lawrence, dean of the George Washington University Law School: let's have separate full-time and part-time rankings.
Comparing 'apples to apples' certainly is a good idea, but if students are still able to cross over from the part-time to the full-time program, then the back door which caused the ruckus in the first place is still wide open. And if the back door is still open then separate rankings for day and evening programs is not the correct solution.
Now, I have to admit I know very little about the number of part-time students that transfer to full-time programs, but it appears that there is disconnect between Professor Trachtenberg and Mr. Morse. Professor Trachtenberg says that the number of students that transfer is relatively small, but Mr. Morse says the number is large enough to warrant changing the current US News ranking methodology, which makes me believe it's a fairly sizable number.
Does anyone have hard data about part-time to full-time matriculation?
I do like the idea of ranking part-time programs because, well, I don't know of any part-time program rankings in existence. It's probably very difficult for prospective part-time students to evaluate the different part-time programs, especially if there are quality differences between a school's day and evening programs. If the US News really wants to shut the back door then they could "de-incentivize" part-time to full-time transfers. Schools that permit widespread part-time to full-time transfers will have the part-time LSAT and GPA scores added to the full-time rankings.
Another option would be to include just the scores of those students that transfer. Schools that segregate the part-time and full-time programs and don't permit evening to day transfers keep their LSAT and GPA scores separate. Here, schools are happy because they can choose what scores to include in the full-time rankings, the US NEWS is happy because back doors are closed (or mitigated), and part-time law students are happy because they are not in the full-time program. It's a win-win-win situation.
What are your thoughts?