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The Aftermath of ABA Standard 509: Law Schools Scramble to Revise Debt Data
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Following the ABA’s adoption of the “Standard 509” on Monday that requires law schools to disclose more consumer information on their websites under new changes made to accreditation standards, there has been a scramble to rectify previously supplied data which contained ‘innocuous’ mistakes.

The new round of data rectification shows law schools had been ‘mistakenly’ underreporting debt amounts incurred by their students, as previously they had been ‘mistakenly’ inflating employment data. Needless to say, the fact that such innocuous mistakes by law schools always work against the students and to the favor of law schools brings into question the qualification of such acts as ‘mistakes.’

However, for now, the innocently erring law schools committing ‘honest mistakes’ can rest easy, as long as they own up to their mistakes, for as reported by the WSJ the ABA has made no determination of intentional misrepresentation. Further, the WSJ quotes a spokesman of the ABA saying, “We will admit that the requests that we make can sometimes be interpreted in various ways … Because of that complexity, that’s why we are okay with schools contacting us and allowing them to revise.”


Samples of the honest mistakes are as follows:

  • Barry University School of Law reported an average debt load of approx. $41,190 for the class of 2011. This figure prompted the U.S. News to include it in the list of law schools where you incur the least student debt. Following the announcement of Standard 509, Barry School of Law has discovered its honest mistake, and found that the actual average debt load it imposed upon students was $137,680 – three times more than what it had reported previously to the ABA and which led it to gaining a spot on the list of most cost-beneficial law schools.
  • Rutgers School of Law – Camden had made it to the list of least-costly law schools by originally reporting an average student loan debt of $27,423 – the honest mistake has been discovered and the figure revised to $80,446
  • The University of Kansas School of Law originally reported an average student loan debt load of $41,574, leading it to gain a spot on the list of least-costly law schools in U.S. Since then it has revised the figure to $67, 598.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which contacted the associate dean for student affairs at Barry Law School, everything was unintentional and they initially reported the unintentional mistakes to the ABA. As Ms. Lefkowitz, the associate dean of student affairs at Barry Law told the WSJ, the error was unintentional, the school had alerted the ABA to the error, but the ABA had failed to contact U.S. News and appraise it of the error. So, Barry Law continued on the list of least-costly law schools. However, Ms. Lefkowitz did not elaborate on the reasons that prevented Barry School of Law from directly contacting U.S. News and bringing the error to their notice.

Update: It has now come to our attention that Barry Law School has contacted U.S. News & World Report about this error and given them the correct information.

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