A new U.S. News & World Report ranking of 2015’s best law schools placed Florida State University above UF, and some UF law students aren’t happy.
Robert Jerry, the dean of UF’s Levin College of Law, held a meeting with about 20 law students Wednesday to address their concerns about what this ranking means for the college.
Out of the 146 schools evaluated, UF’s law college placed 49th, and FSU was 45th. UF has consistently ranked in the high 40s since 2008, but rival FSU has slowly caught up over the years until this year, when it jumped ahead as UF fell behind three places.
Jerry explained that not only is the methodology of the ranking system questionable, but also several universities have been working the system in their favor to climb the ranks — including FSU.
“I said for many years that U.S. News rankings are worthless, but we ignore them at our peril,” he said. “This ranking does create peril when it’s used by people who don’t understand it.”
He said factors such as the percentage of transfer students admitted to a college and its calculations of expenditures can be manipulated to boost scores. About half of FSU’s law student admissions were transfer students in 2013 compared to UF’s 12 percent. FSU’s costs have also been shifted to make direct expenditures per student much higher — both of which help the university increase ranking.
Location has been shown to skew results for evaluating employment, too, as FSU’s Tallahassee location places it close to state-government employers.
“Anyone who thinks we ought to do some of those things, as I told the faculty yesterday afternoon, will simply need to wait on the next dean,” he said.
Jerry will be leaving office in three months, and he said he hopes the new dean’s fresh start will take the college in a positive direction.
He also said regardless of rank, UF’s reputation carries significant weight in the professional realm.
“Our graduates are getting good jobs,” he said. “They’re getting real jobs.”
Although the dean said measures will be taken to improve UF’s ranking, law students like Brett Williams are still skeptical.
Williams, a 26-year-old UF third-year law student, said the dip in rank seemed to have caught the faculty off guard, and now the college is scrambling to catch up.
“If the ranking system is being gamed and we know the game, why aren’t we doing it, too?” he said. “I have to walk into a firm not knowing how they’ll feel about my law school.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 3/13/2014 under the headline “UF falls behind FSU in law ranks"]