Monday, December 3, 2012
NY Times Ethicist: The 'Morality' of Law Schools Enrolling Students at High Tuition Amidst Poor Placement Outcomes
I’m applying to law school. I’m sure there are many schools that could provide me with a decent education; I’m less confident that a degree from some institutions will get me a job. In fact, some schools, while charging outrageously high tuition, place fewer than half of their recent graduates in long-term, full-time legal positions. Is it moral for schools like these to keep enrolling students and collecting tuition dollars knowing that their product is a risky (or outright bad) investment? MATTHEW DREILING, NEW YORK ...
If your query were simply “Is all college tuition in America unreasonably expensive?” my answer might be different. But your particular question is performance-based; you want to know if it’s unethical for colleges whose students are less successful in the job market to demand the same unreasonable tuition as the ones whose graduates perform well. And it’s not unethical — it’s just fiscally unfortunate. Obviously, the best thing any law school could do for its reputation is graduate people who become successful. These schools are motivated to do so; if they continually fail at that goal, they will not attract the best applicants, and the failure will perpetuate itself. But their principal ethical responsibility is to educate law students to the best of that institution’s ability, which isn’t inherently tied to how easily those graduates become gainfully employed. That responsibility is mostly yours.