Great analogy above.
First off U.S. News is an unregulated, for-profit, magazine giving an opinion. You should realize that, but they are kind of like the cheerleaders who determine who is cool that year or not, but you shouldn't base your opinion on what cheerleaders think because as you noticed their minds change quickly. You said both schools moved up 15 spots in one year and I don't doubt that. I am a 2007 law grad and my school has gone down 25 spots in one year and risen 25 spots in a year. Last year my school was in an 11 way tie for 84th place, but I guess new rankings got released today. Guess how much I care about the release of the U.S. News Rankings today? Answer not at all.
Also Guess how much my boss cares if my school jumped 12 spots? Guess how much my clients care if my school jumped 12 spots? Guess how much the judge I argued in front of today cares? Guess how much opposing counsel cares? The answer is they don't care at all nor should they. It is nothing more than a magazine offering an opinion. It will fun to talk about at the water cooler if we made into the 70's, but other than it doesn't matter much. I don't somebody somewhere will think the magazine matters, but is making a life altering decision based on magazines opinion a good idea? I think your smart enough to know the answer. (It can play a factor in your decision, but don't let it be the deciding or even a substantial factor in your decision.
Even if the rankings does matter to someone neither of these schools are Harvard, Yale, Stanford and with how fickle the rankings are it is quite possible for Michigan State to be ranked higher than ASU by the time you graduate in 2015. . http://www.top-law-schools.com/rankings.html
this website shows how much the rankings changed in 3 years. Take a look particularly past the top 50 and notice the 11 way ties and massive jumps or declines. LOCATION & REALITY OF LEGAL EDUCATION
Location is the most important thing to consider when choosing a law school. Whatever school you attend you are going to be at for a minimum of 3 years. Then odds are if you go to Michigan State your going to end up working in Michigan. If you go to Arizona State your going to end up working in Arizona. You have lived in both areas so whichever area you like more should play a much bigger role in your decision than what a magazine thinks.
Then as far as legal education goes it is essentially the same wherever you go. If you go to ASU or Michigan State your going to take Torts, Criminal Law, Contracts, Property, LRW, Con Law, and the typical courses all ABA schools require you to take. Your not going to learn anything differently from either school unless there is some specialty your really interested in. If you are really interested in IP Law, Environmental Law, or something specific then check out what the schools have to offer. However, most law students and lawyers still have no idea what area of law they want to do and if that is your situation, which I am assuming it is the education you receive won't differ much at ASU or MSU. SALARY NUMBERS:
The salary numbers are pretty much a joke. The schools manipulate the salary numbers to such a degree that they don't warrant consideration. Check out lawschooltransparency.com and really read how they report the data and you see can it's manipulated so much that it doesn't really offer any valuable data. VISIT THE SCHOOLS:
This is really the most important thing you can do before making a 3 year 100,000 investment. Each school has their own feel that will either suit your personality or not. When I was deciding I visited many schools and some places rubbed me the wrong way, others I loved, and what rubbed the wrong way might have been a huge pro to someone else. You need to do these visits and talk to the administrators, students, and so on to determine if that school is for you. If you can't stand a place for a day your not going to make it there for 3 years
This does a good job explaining how scholarships work if there are conditions. I don't know if your MSU scholarship has this, but many students lose out on money this way so pay close attention to the conditions of the scholarship. If ASU is offering in-state tuition that is something to consider, but location should play a much bigger role in your decision in my opinion. DISCLAIMER
Please realize that I am nothing more than anonymous internet poster and anyone on this site or other board is nothing more than that. I have no more credibility than U.S. News and I know nothing about you or situation. However, you know yourself, your situation, your likes and your dislikes and your the one that is going to live with this decision for at least three years and likely the rest of your life. Pay attention to your own instincts not a magazine.
There is also no right answer to what law school to choose. Every school has their own pros/cons and in 2004 I was talking to everybody, researching, spending hours of my life trying to find the RIGHT ANSWER. That day never came and there are times I wonder what would have happened if I went to X, Y, or Z school. I will never know, but I enjoyed my law school experience. I hope you do as well, but please use your head and common sense when making this decision don't let a magazine make it for you.