The Law School Admissions Test — four words that send shivers down the spines of prospective law students everywhere. But thanks to the new Wolverine Scholars admissions program at the University’s Law School, some University undergraduate students may be able to dodge the LSAT. Although the program has attracted a battery of criticism, it could be beneficial to students, the state and the University, especially in its efforts to foster diversity.

The recently unveiled Wolverine Scholars program — as the Law School is calling the admissions program — will allow University of Michigan undergraduates with a 3.8 GPA or above to apply to the Law School after completing their junior year without submitting an LSAT score. The goal is to help prospective students avoid the costly exam, even more expensive test-prep books and courses and hours of studying. But there’s a catch: Fewer than 200 prospective applicants would be eligible, because of the GPA requirement. Administrators predict that between five and 10 students will be admitted through the program.

The program has already caused a stir. Some people are accusing the Law School of implementing this program to increase the median GPA of incoming classes. By boosting the average GPA, the Law School could potentially raise its standing in the ubiquitous U.S. News & World Report rankings, which weigh GPA heavily. In a business where national reputation is pivotal, you mess with those rankings, and heads start to roll.

Despite the controversy, the program could prove beneficial. The LSAT has long been a deterrent for poorer students, who can’t afford the test and especially the test-prep material. Eliminating the LSAT for some undergraduates would help maintain the diversity for which the University strives. Further, the admission process would also be fairer because it would be based on long-term academic achievement rather than on a single test score.

By focusing on University undergraduates, the state of Michigan would reap the benefits, too. By encouraging students to attend an in-state law school, when many of the students likely to apply could potentially go elsewhere, the program would encourage highly educated professionals to stay here. It would also encourage qualified undergraduates to go on to Law School, now that it is a little easier to apply. Both of these gains would hopefully encourage students to plant roots in the state.

For critics hell-bent on charging that the Law School is trying to game the U.S. News & World Report rankings, these rankings are already manipulated and exploited. This is a flaw in the integrity of the rankings, not faults in the Law School’s program. Other critics assert that Wolverine Scholars will encourage University undergraduates to enroll in easier courses to inflate their GPAs, thus having a better chance at being admitted into the Law School. But for future lawyers, good grades are required by almost all law schools. For better or for worse, this new program won’t change students’ behavior.

Regardless of its benefits and downfalls, Wolverine Scholars is a gutsy program to implement. A get-out-of-the-LSATs-for-free card is very rare at top-tier law schools. However, other schools are watching closely and, depending on the success of the program, may follow suit. While ranking systems will be in for a world of hurt if other universities and law schools move in this direction, Wolverine Scholars will benefit students, the University and the state of Michigan. Despite its controversy, our ruling is in favor of the Wolverine Scholars program.

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