Inflated grade problems continue for the U of I law school

September 29, 2011

Kate Dries and City Room

(Flickr/Janet and Phil)
The University of Illinois' law school is embroiled in controversy over inflated grades.

New information released by the University of Illinois law school indicates that the school's inflated grade inaccuracies are more serious than they first appeared

In early September, the University reported that grade point averages and median Law School Admissions Test scores of incoming law students had been inflated on the school's website and in promotional publications. Now, an investigation conducted by outside advisory firm Duff & Phelps, and Theodore Chung of the Jones Day law firm, indicates that inaccurate data for the classes of 2011 through 2013 had been released to the American Bar Association and U.S. News World & Report. (The ABA uses this data as part of the university's application for accreditation; U.S. News & World Report is responsible for ranking law schools around the country.) Inaccurate data from the class of 2014 was also found, though it had not been released to the ABA and U.S. News, and was only found in marketing materials released by the University.

The research into the past ten years of class profiles show the numbers for the class of 2014 were inflated the most; LSAT scores from 163 to 168, and GPA from 3.70 to 3.81. The University has additionally clarified that GPAs are reported in 1/10th increments, and 1/100 for promotional materials. 

LSAT scores for the classes of 2011 through 2013 were inflated no more than one point, while GPA's for those same classes fluctuated between 1 to 2 10th of a percentage point. The accurate numbers have been verified and corrected online.

"We've obviously been very proud, and continue to be very proud of our law school," said University spokesman Thomas Hardy. "All the students there, the first years, as well as the second and third year students, are exceptional students...and candidates for admission at many of the top law schools in the country. Our graduates go on to have exceptional law careers in a number of different fields."

"This is disappointing, and it's embarrassing, and we're taking steps to correct it," Hardy added, "but I think this doesn't change the fact that these are outstanding students, and we have an exceptionally strong college of law at a major public institution in the United States."

Hardy said the University is looking into using an independent auditor to check scores in the future. He said the University was in touch with both the ABA and U.S. News & World Report, and that they were ready to do whatever those organizations felt was necessary to rectify the situation. Calls to both ABA were not returned. Bob Morse, director of data research for U.S. News, said he thought the incident should be a deterrent to other schools who might consider doing the same thing.

"Is it troubling? Yes. But I think the real issue that the school is misrepresenting to the ABA," said Morse.

As the investigation is ongoing, it has not been determined who is responsible for the spread of misinformation. But Hardy said the University is "getting close to wrapping it up" so they can "pinpoint how [this] happened, and how we can take measures to insure that it doesn't happen again."

In early September, College of Law admissions dean Paul Pless was placed on leave, and the investigation was initiated. In a statement, University of Illinois President Michael J. Hogan said, "Reporting erroneous data is absolutely unacceptable. The University, the campus and the College of Law place the highest priority on accuracy and integrity, and we will take measures to ensure that this never happens again."

For 2011, U.S. News ranked the school 23 out of all law schools in the country.