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WSU Law School slides

Plunge in magazine's annual ranking upsets students; dean blames an error in reporting statistics.

Marisa Schultz / The Detroit News
April 14, 2007

DETROIT -- Leaders at Wayne State University Law School are so concerned about the school's drop in the U.S.News & World Report rankings they are holding a town hall meeting this morning to take action.

Wayne State plunged from a Tier 3 law school down to the bottom Tier 4, according to the 2008 graduate school rankings released Friday.

The drastic drop has been the talk of students, many of whom believe WSU already had been undervalued by the magazine, which has become an influential tool in the college search, said Maggie Smith, 26, a second-year student. "We all feel it's the type of institution that's not Tier 3 but should actually be in the top," said Smith, vice president of the student board of governors. "And now that it's gone down it's demoralizing for us."

The statistic that most certainly doomed the law school was its percentage of 2005 graduates who had found jobs nine months after graduation -- 60 percent -- which was the lowest among all Tier 4 schools. Wayne State surveys graduates, and students who fail to reply affect the ranking.

"There was a significant error in reporting our employment statistics in 2005, and it had a devastating effect," said Dean Frank Wu. The ranking was "unwarranted because of erroneous data, and we will be presenting that all at the town hall meeting," said Wu.

What's clear is that employment rate for Wayne State grads is drastically lower this year than in the past three years, when it ranked as Tier 3, reporting rates of 84 percent, 90 percent and 92 percent, respectively.

Robert Morse, director of data research at U.S.News, said it's possible the employment figures were incorrect. Even so, the law school won't get back into the third tier this year, he said. "Our policy is not to change the ranking" if the school erred, Morse said. "The schools submitted the data and signed off as being accurate."

The town hall meeting will be at 9 a.m. in the law school auditorium.

The University of Michigan's law school ranked eighth in the country, and Michigan State University's was bumped up into Tier 3. University of Detroit Mercy, Ave Maria and Cooley law schools are in Tier 4.