Saturday, August 18, 2012
It's Supply and Demand 101: When demand for a product drops, prices fall to lure back buyers. But this fundamental law of economics doesn't apply to law schools. The number of applicants to U.S. law schools declined drastically during the past two years, yet the average tuition this fall will climb by more than double the rate of inflation.
Average tuition and fees at private law schools will increase approximately 4% over last year to $40,585, according to an examination of published rates by The National Law Journal. That's the first time private-school rates have crossed the $40,000 threshold. In-state resident students at public law schools will see a 6% increase on average, to approximately $23,590. Inflation is running at about 1.7%.
The tuition increases come at a tenuous time for legal education. Nationwide, the number of applicants has declined a cumulative 25% during the past two years, and some law schools have responded by slashing the size of their incoming classes. Growing debt loads and declining job prospects have been major factors taking the shine off a J.D. ...
Twelve law schools — all public — posted double-digit increases. The highest percentage climb this year was at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, at 19%, although its tuition and fees will remain among the lowest in the country at $11,265. The University of California, Davis School of Law and the University of California Hastings College of the Law plan the largest dollar increases this year, each topping $3,000.
The tuition increases would seem to ignore the U.S. News & World Report rankings — small and large percentage tuition increases appear to be fairly evenly distributed among high- and low-ranking law schools.
"I'm not shocked by the numbers, but I'm horrified," said Ohio State University Michael E. Moritz College of Law professor Deborah Jones Merritt, who has begun blogging on University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos' blog Inside the Law School Scam. "It's professionally irresponsible. Law schools have a responsibility to our students and their futures, which includes not raising prices as much as we can." ...
Of course, a law school's listed tuition doesn't tell the full story. Anecdotal evidence suggests that scholarship money is more plentiful than ever this year as law schools compete to fill their seats. For example, the University of Illinois College of Law has offered some scholarship money to every admitted student. ... The growth of scholarship money, meanwhile, is exacerbating a phenomenon ... [referred to] as the "Reverse Robin Hood" — admitted students with the lowest academic credentials pay tuition and end up subsidizing educational costs for the highest-performing students.
National Law Journal, What Deans Have to Say About Tuition:
Law schools' tuition increases will range as high as 19% this fall, with private schools averaging a 4% bump and public schools increasing by an average 6%. The National Law Journal spoke with deans about the factors driving their schools' tuition levels.
- Drexel (Roger Dennis)
- Florida (Robert Jerry)
- Syracuse (Hannah Arterian)
- UNLV (Nancy Rapoport)
Update: Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), News of the Day:
It's time for law schools to wake up and smell the burning toaster. We have been raising tuition--substantially--while our applicants have been getting poorer and their job prospects have been dwindling. We are continuing to raise prices as applicant demand falls. These are not wise business strategies. Worse than that, these actions are professionally irresponsible -- in the old-fashioned, non-technical sense of the phrase.
Law school professors and administrators hold the keys to the legal profession: We decide who gets to enter the profession and how much they pay for that honor. Over the last three decades, we have continuously raised prices to the point where we take for ourselves most of the economic benefit conferred by a legal education. For a growing number of graduates, we have exceeded that level; attending law school leaves those graduates worse off financially than they would have been without the degree.