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This year's directory of top business and law schools
again breaks new ground.
Ranking law and business schools has become an industry unto itself. Several publications now regularly compile lists of top law and MBA programs, and in the case of some at least, the results can be counted on to create a stir in higher education circles and, to a lesser extent, the media.
Interestingly, this glut of information has produced more, not less, confusion over choosing an appropriate school for law or business training. Though most tend to reflect a bias in favor of traditionally strong programs such as Stanford's and Harvard's, published rankings invariably differ with regard to methodology and other factors.
And if the experts can't agree on which schools are best, how are consumers expected to know?
Most experts do agree on one thing: Rankings of the sort published by U.S. News & World Report, the best known of such lists, should serve as guides and nothing more. Selecting a law or business school, they say, should hinge on personal circumstances and preferences, and especially career objectives.
"My sense is that the most important elements when choosing a school are the programs being offered and whether they fit your career goals," says Antonio R. Flores, president and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).
The problem with general-market law and business school rankings is that they tend to give short shrift to intangibles such as program flexibility. Indeed, most rankings are weighted heavily in favor of faculty and institutional prestige.
These unquestionably are important considerations. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, graduates of highly competitive full-time MBA programs are better compensated in their first jobs than those who graduate from less competitive programs. The same undoubtedly applies to law programs that perennially rank high.
Even so, Mr. Flores says, academic stature counts for only so much. "Prestige is, to me, frosting on the cake. But if the cake is not there, frosting is not going to do much good," he says.
In the case of Hispanics, the cake would include such things as cultural diversity and sensitivity, according to Mr. Flores.
Unlike other rankings, HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine's annual Top 10 Business and Law Schools directories take into account minority recruitment and retention among faculty and students and support-providing services such as student associations and mentoring programs, in addition to traditional criteria such as academic stature (see methodology below).
Topping both the law and business school directories this year is the University of Texas at Austin. Its McCombs School of Business, which was ranked third last year, boasts Hispanic enrollment of 13 percent and supports organizations such as the Hispanic Graduate Business Association, which helps students with both academic and professional needs. Alumni of the university's law school (ranked sixth last year) include a Texas secretary of state, federal judges, and several bar and government leaders. It was ranked number 1 in 1999.
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