KU law school ranked among top 50 schools in the country for first time by U.S. News & World Report
photo by: Ashley Golledge
Story updated at 4:06 p.m. Thursday, May 11:
The University of Kansas Law School has landed a top-50 ranking from U.S. News & World Report for the first time in the school’s history.
The KU school was ranked No. 40 among all law schools and was ranked No. 18 among law schools at public universities.
The latest ranking is a jump of 27 spots among all schools and 18 spots among public schools compared to last year’s rankings.
KU Law School Dean Stephen Mazza said KU is grateful for the ranking, but its position as a top 50 national school won’t be a new mantra that prospective students are presented with at every turn.
That’s because KU leaders believe there may be a statistic students care even more about — the number of fellow students who end up with a high-quality job. In its class of 2021, KU ranked eighth in the country among all American Bar Association-accredited schools for students finding “full-time, long term legal employment.” Nearly 95% of all KU law school graduates found one of those high-quality jobs upon graduation in 2021.
“We think what is more important than the overall rankings are those student metrics,” Mazza said in an interview with the Journal-World.
For the first time in years, U.S. News & World Report is beginning to agree. The publication, which produces some of the most-used college rankings in the country, has faced criticism for how it ranks universities and their programs. This year, the publication began shifting its methodology.
“What happened is U.S. News is now focusing more on these outcome-based measures and less on input measures,” Mazza said.
In the past, U.S. News & World Report gave considerable weight to the amount of money per student that a university was spending to provide a law school education. KU didn’t always fare well in that category, but the university also would note that its tuition rates are less expensive than many of those larger-spending schools.
“You would think that rankings would reward a school that has a reasonable tuition rate,” Mazza said. “But really, you got more credit the more money you spent.”
That spending metric is now diminished in the rankings. The employment metric is one statistic that was given more weight, and so too was the metric measuring the number of students who passed the bar exam.
KU’s classes have excelled in that arena too. KU students who took the bar exam in 2021 had the 11th-highest first-time bar exam pass rate in the country, according to an analysis by Reuters. Nearly 96% of all graduates passed the bar on their first try.
Mazza said that real-life metric has been a point of emphasis for the KU Law School. He said about three years ago, KU became one of only a handful of law schools in the country to pay for their graduates to take a bar exam preparatory program from a third-party vendor. Such private preparatory classes are common among law school graduates across the country. But typically it is an expense that law school graduates have to pay on their own. KU, though, worked to raise money through its alumni network to pay for the preparatory classes — and boost the law school’s first-time pass rate in the process.
Mazza said those types of success stories are the kind the school really highlights with students. But, of course, KU won’t be shy about touting its top-50 ranking, as Mazza said the ranking will be a point of pride with many alumni.
“Obviously, we are pleased to get the recognition,” he said.
The ranking also gives KU some bragging rights in the region. KU’s latest ranking, which technically was a tie for 40th with several other schools, places it near the top of the rankings list both in the Big 12 Conference and among law schools in surrounding states.
KU currently is the second-ranked law school in the Big 12 Conference, behind the University of Texas, which tied for a No. 16 ranking. Texas is in the process of leaving the Big 12 Conference, but incoming Big 12 member Brigham Young University is tied for No. 22 in the rankings. The next-closest Big 12 members in the rankings were Baylor, tied for No. 49, and Oklahoma, tied for No. 51.
KU was the top-ranked law school in Kansas. When looking at states that surround Kansas, KU ranked second among those law schools. The law school at Washington University, the private school in St. Louis, was tied for No. 20 in the rankings. Others of note were the University of Colorado, tied for No. 56, University of Missouri, tied for No. 71 and the University of Nebraska, tied for No. 89.
In addition to the law school rankings, U.S. News & World Report also ranked medical school programs across the country. The KU School of Medicine had two programs ranked among the top 50 of medical schools. KU’s primary care program ranked No. 14, and its medical research program ranked No. 43.
U.S. News & World Report last month ranked other non- law or medical graduate programs at universities across the country. In that ranking, KU had 37 programs ranked in the top 50 and nine in the top 10. Three programs — local government management, paleontology and special education — were ranked No. 1 among public universities.