Times are tough in Cleveland. How tough? Today a story gave us some sense of the distress felt by many people.
The times in Cleveland are so challenging that, when the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland announced that it was accepting applications for table game and poker dealer jobs that pay between $17 and $22 per hour, 11,800 people applied for 500 openings. Some applicants even took special coaching classes at a nearby community college to try to improve their interviewing skills and show the dazzling personality that casinos apparently are looking for in table game dealers.
In 2009, when Ohio voters approved the constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling in our state, it was sold as a way to create jobs — and at least that promise is being kept. Two years later, the economy still stinks, and former construction workers, machinists, and medical billing technicians who have been out of work for months are so desperate that they have flooded a not-yet-open casino with applications and even taken classes in hopes of improving their slim chances of landing a job dealing blackjack. In my view, that painful reality says a lot more about the true extent of our economic problems than cold statistics ever could.
Recently the University of Illinois College of Law announced that Law School Aptitude Test (LSAT) and grade point average (GPA) statistics provided on the school’s website were inflated. The school posted the correct numbers, said it was conducting a thorough review of how the error happened, and placed the dean of admissions on leave as part of the investigation process.
The incident is part of a broader trend of concern about the credibility of law school admissions statistics at the beginning of the law school experience (the LSAT scores and GPAs of the incoming classes) and the placement statistics at the end of the process (how many graduates get law-related jobs). The LSAT and GPA statistics are significant to the law schools’ ranking by the U.S. News and World Report, which uses those numbers to measure “selectivity.” Every college and graduate school student, parent, professor, and administrator knows that the U.S. News and World Report ranking carries a huge amount of weight. With law school admissions dropping — and they fell by 10 percent in 2011 — schools competing for the reduced pool of applicants may be sorely tempted to cook their admissions and job placement figures. Interestingly, plaintiffs’ lawyers have noted the issue and are pondering whether inaccurate reporting should be met by a class action lawsuit on behalf of students.
Institutions of higher learning used to presume to occupy the moral high ground. More and more, however, those institutions behave like businesses and are facing the same kinds of scandals we see in the business world. What do such scandals mean for a school’s ability to achieve its educational mission? How is a law school that admits to falsifying data supposed to enforce an honor code, or credibly instruct students about legal ethics?