Tuesday, October 27, 2009
The ABA’s accreditation standards focus on a number of issues, including schools’ facilities, student support services, faculty, admissions practices, and graduates’ passage of the bar exam. Concerns have been raised about how some of these accreditation standards may affect the cost of attendance and minority access. In 2007, we reported on the ABA’s process for accrediting law schools and questions that had been raised about the process. In this report, in response to a mandate in the Higher Education Opportunity Act, we examine the following questions: (1) How do law schools compare with similar professional schools in terms of cost and minority enrollment? (2) What factors, including accreditation, may affect the cost of law school? (3) What factors, including accreditation, may affect minority access to law school?
We briefed your staff on the results of our analysis on September 2 and 3, 2009, and this report formally conveys the information provided during that briefing (see appendix I for the briefing slides). In summary, we reported the following:
- Since 1994, tuition and fees at law schools and selected professional schools have increased, and trends in minority enrollment have been comparable across types of schools. At law, medical, and dental schools during this time period, Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders increased as a share of enrollment or stayed at about the same level, while African American enrollment declined or stayed at about the same level.
- According to law school officials, the move to a more hands-on, resource-intensive approach to legal education and competition among schools for higher rankings appear to be the main factors driving the cost of law school, while ABA accreditation requirements appear to play a minor role. Additionally, officials at public law schools reported that recent decreases in state funding are a contributor to rising tuition at public schools.
- Most law school officials do not cite ABA accreditation standards as having an impact on minority access at their schools. Lower average Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores and undergraduate grade point averages (GPA) may have negatively affected some African Americans and Hispanics.
- ABA Journal, GAO Puts Blame on US News Rankings for High Law School Tuition
- Above the Law, New Villain in Law School Debt Tragedy
- Chronicle of Higher Education, Law-School Cost Is Pushed Up by Quest for Prestige, Not Accreditation, GAO Survey Finds
- Huffington Post, While Law School Tuition Skyrockets, Government Student Loan Limits Remain Stagnant
- Inside Higher Ed, GAO Plays Down Accreditation's Role in Driving Up Law School Prices
- The Shark, More Rankings, More Problems: US News to Blame for High Tuition
- University of Chicago Faculty Blog, Law School Costs at the Margin