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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

GAO: U.S. News Rankings, Not Accreditation, Key Driver of Law School Tuition

The Government Accountability Office yesterday released Issues Related to Law School Cost and Access (GAO-10-20):

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  • Most law school officials do not cite ABA accreditation standards as having an impact on minority access at their schools.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.

GAO 1

GAO 2

GAO 3
GAO 4 

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Comments

Why would the minorities care about any relationship here? Not one Black, Hispanic, or Native American at my law school paid dime one for tuition. The Asians, of course, paid in full as well.

Posted by: Viny B. | Oct 27, 2009 5:25:37 PM

The GAO determined how much accreditation requirements add to the cost of law school by asking the currently accredited law schools?

Building size, physical library, admission standards, faculty/student ratio, faculty contract requirements, restrictions on distance learning, are all driven by accreditation standards. There's a reason that Concord Law School, a for-profit venture, can offer annual tuition at less than $10,000. It doesn't meet accreditation standards.

Posted by: Frank Snyder | Oct 27, 2009 6:39:08 PM