South Dakota's Pass Rate Plummets
The Associated Press
November 8, 2003

The rate of University of South Dakota students who passed the state bar exam fell 18 percentage points from last year.

But USD officials said fluctuations in passing rates are common because a relatively small number of students take the exam.

The bar exam is taken twice a year - in February and July. Of the USD students who took it this year, 74 percent passed, said John Hagemann, acting dean of USD's law school. Last year, 92 percent passed it. In 2001, 98 percent passed the exam.

In more populated states such as California, thousands of people take the bar exam, said USD spokesman Nathan Schock. On the other hand, in USD's July exam, only 46 people took the test, Hagemann said.

''A decline in one given year isn't statistically significant when you look at the small number of our grads who take the bar exam,'' Hagemann said.

Schock agreed, saying that at USD it takes only one student to cause a noticeable difference in the percentage of those who pass the exam.

During the last decade, the percentage of USD students passing the test has ranged between the 70s and upper 90s, according to Hagemann. By itself, Hagemann said he did not see this year's drop as a cause for concern.

Tom Sorensen, associate dean of USD's law school, pointed out that in the July 2001 and February 2002 bar exams, the school had 100 percent passing rate.

''When you hit 100 percent, there's only one way to go,'' Sorensen said.