To add to its ranking the country's full-time undergraduate, MBA and law school programs, U.S. News & World Report recently announced that it plans to flesh out the newest category of their rankings: part-time JD and MBA programs. While a school's part-time program was considered in the overall evaluation of a graduate school prior to the 2009 rankings (the first year the PT rankings appeared), these PT programs will now be ranked separately using a new, more advanced system.
According to Bob Morse, U.S. News' director of data research, the magazine decided to make the part-time rankings more robust using new, separate survey tools because of the interest in part-time programs, as well as the high number of part-time school reviews already collected. Using a peer review survey, faculty and members of the administration will rate part-time programs on a scale from one to five. Ninety-nine part-time law programs will be evaluated based on these peer reviews, as well as additional criteria that may include entering students' LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs, the program's acceptance rate, academic offerings and student activities. Part-time programs at 314 MBA schools will be ranked solely on these surveys. (For 2009, part-time programs were previously ranked by asking graduate school officials to select their pick of the top programs. Law school officials were asked to choose their top 15, while business schools were asked for their top 10.)
While U.S. News' rankings of academic programs can be helpful to students during the admissions process, research by the ABA and LSAC has shown that these lists often take a school's attention away from academics and instead cause them to focus their time and financial resources on improving their rank. For example, the George Washington University Law School reacted to its drop in the rankings (from 20th to 28th) by accepting fewer part-time students as a way to increase their acceptance rate. We have yet to see how other schools will react to the fuller part-time rankings, though they probably won't be happy.
-Posted by Rebecca Zissou
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