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25 July 2012 at 11:54 BST

Illinois law school fined for manipulating figures

Officials have fined a leading US law school $250,000 for inflating the academic credentials of incoming students in a landmark move by the country's legal education regulators.

In the first ever instance of the American Bar Association fining a school for inaccurate data, the college of law at the University of Illinois  will also have to post a censure on its website, as well as hiring an external monitor for at least two years, reports web site Law.com.
The censure describes the behaviour of the school as ‘reprehensible and misleading’, as well as ‘damaging to the reputation of the legal profession’.

Exaggerated grades

Following a tip last year, the ABA discovered that the college had reported inaccurate date for three years, repeatedly exaggerating students’ grade-point averages (GPA) and law school admission test (LSAT) results.
While in 2008 the inaccuracies were relatively small, with the published LSAT median increased by one point, this year the college published an LSAT median of 168, when just 163 was achieved, and a GPA of 3.81, rather than 3.7.
According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, ABA officials did not accept the results of the university’s internal investigation, which concluded that Paul Pless, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid, was solely responsible for the misconduct.  The ABA instead ruled that the inflated grades stemmed from a 2006 strategic plan designed to further the reputation of the school.

Accurate information

John O’Brien, chairman of the ABA’s council of legal education and admissions to the bar, told the National Law Journal that ‘the picture the council saw was one of a school that was not sufficiently concerned about its responsibility to put accurate information out there’. The college has previously been accused of lying about expenditure per student to boost its place in rankings.
The fine, which the council described as proportional to the wrongdoing, and only ‘a small fraction’ of the college’s annual budget, is to be placed in an ABA fund that monitors compliance with data reporting requirements.
The university itself declined to comment on the fine.


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