UMKC’s School of Law was ranked No. 20 among the “Best Value Law Schools” in the National Jurist’s September magazine.
The National Jurist, which covers legal education, has published best value rankings since 2004, based on graduate debt, tuition, cost of living, bar exam pass rates and graduate employment rates.
Most schools on the list are public universities in the South and Midwest. The University of Missouri-Columbia, No. 13, was the only university in Kansas or Missouri whose law school outranked UMKC’s.
In the past, employment data was non-weighted, which included law school graduates working in non-legal professions.
This year, employment data from the American Bar Association was weighted to favor full-time, long-term employment in positions which require bar exam passage. This helped bump up UMKC’s ranking.
“We’re attempting to educate competent, practice-ready, entry-level lawyers,” Law School Dean Ellen Suni said. “That’s our primary job.”
Suni praised the Law School faculty’s professional and scholarly experience.
“I don’t think you can have a good faculty without good lawyers and good scholars,” she said. “These teachers bring both of those skills to their classes.”
Suni said bar exam pass rates have also helped UMKC.
“About 10 years ago, our numbers were not where we wanted them to be, and we started to address that with a grassroots system,” Suni said. “Now we have a wonderful program where 98.5 percent of students who do the work and put in the time pass.”
Suni said the school has made due with a limited budget. The average 2011 tuition of $16,730 is less than tuition at 11 of the top 20 “best value” schools, including UM-Columbia.
“We’ve never had very much money,” Suni said. “This really forces you to become efficient. Our adjunct faculty doesn’t get paid at all. Our faculty has never had that huge salary that you read about. That feeds into lower tuition.”
On an unfortunate note, 2011 graduates from the UMKC School of Law averaged $91,338 in debt, a figure $10,000 more than any of the other top 10 schools.