The University of Michigan School of Law recent announced an innovative program to admit 1L law students who have never taken an LSAT exam. Under the Wolverine Scholars program, potential admits with especially good undergraduate records from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor campus may apply for admission to the law school without having taken the LSAT. That is not just an option, either; it is a requirement. "In order to be considered for the Wolverine Scholars program, applicants must not yet have taken the LSAT," explains the law school.
How, then, can the law school trust that the Wolverine Scholars program will bring in qualified students? It doubtless helps that only students of the University of Michigan, an excellent undergraduate institution, qualify. To hedge its bets, though, the law school also requires that students applying as Wolverine Scholars have and maintain a cumulative UM grade point average of at least 3.80. (By way of comparison, the law school last year reported that its 1Ls had a mean GPA of 3.64.)
The Wolverine Scholars program doubtless has many virtues. I wonder, though, if the University of Michigan law school counts among them an opportunity to improve its performance in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. After all, the law school can hardly report LSAT scores for its IL Wolverine Scholars if no such scores exist. Yet those same students offer the school a chance to greatly improve the mean GPA of its IL class.
I predict that many more schools will soon emulate the University of Michigan's Wolverine Scholars program—unless, of course, USN&WR changes its ranking methodology to take away the advantage that LSAT-free admissions offers. USN&WR probably will not do so, however, because it relies in large part on ABA-defined categories of data. So unless the ABA reacts to LSAT-free admissions programs by changing how it measures GPAs, USN&WR will probably not rock the boat.
(HT: My Chapman colleague, and UM law school alum, Denis Binder.)
[Crossposted at Agoraphilia, MoneyLaw, and College Life O.C.]