ABA fines UI law school $250,000 over admissions data
CHICAGO — The American Bar Association on Tuesday censured the University of Illinois College of Law for publishing false admissions data and fined the school $250,000.
An investigation by the university last fall, prompted by a whistleblower, found that the college had published inflated median grade-point averages and Law School Admission Test scores for six entering law school classes over the last decade, in order to appear more competitive.
The ABA section governing law school admissions determined that the UI had intentionally falsified the scores for the entering class of 2005 and 2007 through 2011, violating standards requiring law schools to maintain sound admissions policies and to publish "basic, accurate consumer information."
"No matter what the competitive pressures, law schools must not cheat," the report from the ABA said.
It's the first time the ABA, which accredits law schools, has fined a school for violating that section.
The sanctions also require the law school to post the public censure on its website for two years, issue a "public corrective statement" to other law schools, and hire a compliance monitor to report to the accreditation committee on its admissions process and data for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years.
The ABA report also essentially ordered the law school to end an early admission program that recruited students who had not taken the LSAT.
The UI's own investigation concluded that a single assistant dean, Paul Pless, had manipulated test scores and other data to preserve the colleges top 25 national ranking. Pless resigned just before the report became public after having been placed on administrative leave.
But the ABA found that the college "lacked effective internal controls and oversight to prevent, deter and detect inadvertent or intentional manipulation of admission data."
At a hearing this spring, the College of Law accepted the accreditation committee's recommendation for a public censure and outside data monitoring, but argued against the $250,000 sanction, according to the ABA. The UI said it was inconsistent with a previous case and argued it was not proportionate to the violations, according to the ABA.
UI officials were not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The ABA said the monetary penalty addresses the "harm to the reputation and standing of legal education and the profession resulting from the law school's violation of the standards."
"The conduct of the College of Law undermined and continues to undermine confidence in the accreditation process," the report said.
The money will go toward monitoring and enhancing compliance with the data reporting and publication requirements for all approved law schools.
In a statement Tuesday UI officials pledged to comply with the sanctions, saying they were disappointed but “relieved to put this difficult chapter behind us.”