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Law Schools That Misreported Student Debt Figures to ABA, US News Are Identified

Posted Aug 9, 2012 3:36 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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We now know the names of three of the law schools that misreported average student debt figures to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and to U.S. News & World Report.

The three schools—identified in this Wall Street Journal Law Blog posting—are Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Fla.; the University of Kansas School of Law; and Rutgers School of Law-Camden.

All three schools say the misreported figures were an honest mistake. And section officials say they have no reason to think otherwise.

Barry originally reported an average student debt load for the class of 2011 of $41,190, earning it a place in U.S. News' list of the top 10 law schools whose students have the least amount of student debt. The correct figure, Barry now says, $137,680.

The University of Kansas School of Law had originally reported an average indebtedness for 2011 graduates of nearly $42,000. The actual figure, the school now says, is $67,598.

Rutgers School of Law-Camden originally reported an average debt figure of $27,423. The correct number, the school says, is $80,446.

The problem with the original data surfaced last month, when U.S. News for the first time published lists of law schools with the highest and lowest average student debt. Some of the schools on the lists then realized they had mistakenly reported average student debt for just one year, not all three years of law school, as they were supposed to.

That prompted Scott Norberg, the ABA’s deputy consultant on legal education, to send out an email to all law schools asking them to recheck their figures. To date, Norberg says, 13 schools have come forward to correct previously submitted information, though he characterized some of the corrections as minor.

An ABA spokesman said the the section has no plans to sanction any of the schools. He said sanctions are reserved for schools that make "persistent and substantial misrepresentations" in the data they report to the section. (The ABA collects, but doesn't publish data on student debt.)

Robert Morse, director of data and usage for U.S. News, said the magazine will fix the figures on its website as requests come in.

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