News Column

Higher Learning: Best Grad Programs for Hispanics

September 2001
best schools

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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.

This year's business school directory includes the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Kenan-Flagler Business School (ranked third), with 13 percent Hispanic enrollment, and the University of Michigan (ranked ninth), whose business school has 3 percent Hispanic enrollment. Both were ranked among the top 10 in 1999 but failed to make last year's list.

Similarly, this year's law school directory includes the University of New Mexico (ranked fourth, with Hispanic enrollment of 23 percent). UNM ranked second in 1999 but failed to make last year's list. Newcomers to this year's law school directory are Southwestern University School of Law and the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law, with Hispanic enrollment of 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively.

Written by Senior Editor Tim Dougherty; directory compiled by Research Supervisor J. Tabin Cosio and Research Assistant Cynthia Marquez.

Methodology

Our law school survey was limited to programs accredited by the American Bar Association. Likewise, our business school survey was limited to programs accredited by the American Council of Business Schools.

Questionnaires requesting information in the following five categories were sent to each institution. A point system was then developed wherein up to five points were awarded in each category.

Enrollment: Two parameters -- the number of Hispanic students currently enrolled and the percentage of Hispanic students in the overall school enrollment -- were ranked.
Faculty: The percentage of full-time Hispanic faculty members among total full-time faculty was calculated and ranked.
Student Services: The number of special programs that recruit Hispanic students in each school, the number of mentorship programs available to Hispanic students, and the number of Hispanic student support organizations active on campus were evaluated. Numerical values for these three factors were averaged for the final rating.
Retention Rate: The number of first-year Hispanic students who returned for their second year was divided by the number of first-year Hispanic students, as reported by each institution. The retention rate was then ranked on a five-point scale.
Reputation: All graduate programs were assessed on the basis of the U.S. News and World Report ranking of their programs in the Best Graduate Schools, 2002 Edition.All the above measures were summed and a rating was assigned to each school on the basis of the total score.


Law School Web Sites
    American Bar Association
(www.abanet.org/legaled): Features a list of ABA-approved schools.
    Law School Admission Council (www.lsat.org): Includes the "Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools."


Business School Web Sites
    Graduate Management Admission Council
(www.gmat.org): Provides information about the cost of an MBA education and how to prepare for the admissions test.
    Official MBA Guide (http://mba.us.com/guide): Has a searchable database that allows you to rank MBA programs according to your criteria.



Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS magazine


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