A recent Journal-World story reported the latest U.S. News and World Reports academic ranking for the nation’s public universities.
Kansas University had 10 programs ranked in the top 10, but KU alumni and friends were surprised and disappointed to learn the magazine had dropped the KU School of Law 22 spots in the past two years. Its current national ranking is 89th.
Stephen Mazza has just finished his first year as dean of the KU law school, and it’s understandable he is not happy about the slippage of his school in the U.S. News ranking. He already has made changes within the school to correct some situations.
One part, a major part, of the U.S. News assessments is based on a review of 2010 law school graduation records. The magazine’s report for next year will be based on 2011 graduation records so there is little Mazza could to do to correct or improve either year’s rankings for KU.
The law school scores quite well in numerous categories, but it gets low marks for its employment records for 2010 graduates. According to Mazza, the low ranking occurred because the school did not have complete employment records for 2010 grads and the same is true for the class of 2011. Mazza is aware of this embarrassing situation and has hired new people to correct the record-keeping problem.
Another factor in KU’s poor showing was the school’s low tuition cost. Mazza says he will not inflate tuition merely to score higher in the magazine’s rankings.
Obviously Mazza is disappointed with the school’s poor showing. Too often, the response from university officials is that rankings really don’t mean much, that they are more popularity contests than a true reflection of a school’s academic excellence and that “we don’t put too much stock in rankings.”
That may be the dodge or excuse used by many in the academic community, but Mazza realizes rankings are important because the general public, state legislators, students, parents and donors all look at rankings.
Mazza is determined to improve his school’s ranking but by legitimate means, not by playing games with tuition or making temporary hires to improve the employment number for recent graduates.