Posted on November 23, 2022

Researchers Examine Impact of Law School Admissions Reform on Diversity

Stephanie Koons, Pennsylvania State University, November 14, 2022

As part of an effort to address racial inequities in the legal field, law schools in the United States are increasingly accepting the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) in place of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) as part of their admissions requirements. According to College of Education researchers, however, GRE-accepting admissions alone are insufficient for expanding access to law school for racially minoritized students.

In a new study, the researchers found that GRE-accepting policies increase  selectivity without corresponding changes in racial diversity. Additionally, GRE-accepting policies may decrease racial diversity over time.

“My hope is that this study complicates how we think about admissions reform,” said Kelly Rosinger, associate professor of education (education and ). “I think we’re really hoping for a silver bullet and what we’ve forgotten in this is that racial inequities in enrollment patterns are the result of systematic, decades-long policies that are intended to withhold opportunities from Black and brown families and give opportunities to white families.”

The study, “Exploring the Impact of GRE-Accepting Admissions on Law School Diversity and Selectivity,” was published recently in The Review of Higher Education. In the paper, Rosinger and her co-authors valuate the impact of law schools’ decisions to allow applicants to submit the GRE instead of or in addition to the LSAT. {snip}


“Law schools are particularly important in producing graduates who can advance social justice issues,” Rosinger said. “From a social justice perspective, from an equity lens, I think this is a particularly important profession to think about efforts to improve access to students who have been historically denied access to law schools.”


Going into the study, the researchers had reason to believe that GRE-accepting admissions may increase enrollment among racially minoritized students. In their article, they cite previous research that has shown disparities in LSAT scores by race, with test-takers identifying as Black or Puerto Rican on average scoring lower than takers identifying as white, Asian or Pacific Islander. Rosinger said that LSAT introduces racial bias into the admissions process in the sense that its costly and only offered a few times a year. The GRE, while carrying some of the same inherent biases as the LSAT, is offered more often and at a lower cost.

To understand how GRE-accepting policies impact law school selectivity and diversity, the researchers used data from the ABA, which collects annual information on law school admissions, enrollment and financial aid practices. Their sample included 201 ABA-approved law schools, while their dataset contained a decade of data from the 2011–12 to the 2020–21 academic years.

Rosinger and colleagues’ study on law school admissions reform yielded similar results as the previous studies on test-optional admissions. Due to the greater volume of applications, law schools were able to become more selective without further diversifying the student body. In fact, the researchers found that GRE-accepting policies may decrease  after being in place a couple of years and those changes are sustained over time.