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Monday, March 11, 2013

Coalition of 67 Law Profs and Deans Pushes for Legal Education Reform

I am one of the 67 law professors and deans who, as members of the "Coalition of Concerned Colleagues" assembled by Paul Carrington, Stephen Gillers, Deborah Rhode, and others, sent the following letter to the ABA:

The recent chorus of complaints about the “crisis” in legal education has brought new urgency to longstanding concerns. Law schools are operating in a difficult climate, characterized by rising costs, strained endowments, reduced governmental assistance, disaffected students, and declining applications. The undersigned Coalition of Concerned Colleagues seeks to draw attention to the problems confronting legal education, and to identify potential responses.

Over the last three decades, the price of a legal education has increased approximately three times faster than the average household income. With the help of the federal student loan fund, some ninety percent of law students borrow to finance their legal education and the average law school debt now exceeds $100,000. Overall, law students in 2011-2012 borrowed more than $4 billion to pay for their legal education. Unsurprisingly, debt burdens are unevenly spread and amplify racial and class disadvantages.

The price of legal education has risen as the job market for lawyers has declined. More than two out of every five 2011 graduates did not obtain a full-time long-term job requiring a law degree; the median starting salary of the class, among the less than half of graduates for whom a salary was reported, was $60,000. The problematic economics are captured by this fundamental mismatch: a graduate who earns the median salary cannot afford to make the monthly loan payments on the average debt. Large numbers of current law students will be forced to enter Income Based Repayment (IBR), a new federal debt relief program that allows reduced monthly payments, but with significant costs for both debtors and taxpayers. These costs may cause Congress to rethink the provision of easy credit to law students.

The price of legal education substantially affects access to the profession. The out-of-pocket cost of obtaining a la w degree ranges from $150,000 to $200,000 or more for many law students. This erects a formidable economic barrier to becoming a lawyer and restricts the career choices of those who do enter the bar. Although the federal government and most law schools of fer some loan repayment assistance to graduates who take public interest jobs, law school programs are often insufficiently funded and the federal programs do not provide full discharge until after 10 years of public interest employment.

Nor do these programs address the fundamental problem of how a lack of jobs, public interest or otherwise, has now made law school a questionable investment. The federal government estimates that, at current graduation rates, the economy will create about one new legal job for every two law school graduates over the next decade. Most knowledgeable observers believe that the situation is unlikely to improve even if the economy fully rebounds. More employers are relying on paralegals, technology and contract attorneys to do work previously performed by recent graduates, and cash-strapped public sector agencies are facing pressure to curtail legal expenditures.

Many law schools are themselves in an increasingly difficult financial position. After years of uninterrupted increases in enrollment and tuition, they now face a sharp decline in applicants. As it becomes harder for law schools to fill their classes, all but the wealthiest institutions will face pressure to cut expenses. Yet at the same time, preoccupation with the annual ranking of schools by U.S. News and World Reports gives schools a perverse incentive to spend more in areas rewarded by the U.S. News formula. Two examples are expenditures per student and faculty-student ratios, which have risen dramatically in the decades since the rankings went into effect. Schools also have incentives to reduce tuition for students with high median GPA and LSAT scores, even though these applicants are unlikely to have the greatest financial need. This causes students from modest economic backgrounds paying full tuition to, in effect, subsidize the education of their more privileged peers. As chool can do better in the rankings if it spends more in ways that could enhance its reputation. The combination of rising costs, declining applicants, and perverse incentives puts the financial survival of some schools in question.

Legal education cannot continue on the current trajectory. As members of a profession committed to serving the public good, we must find ways to alter the economics of legal education. Possible changes include reducing the undergraduate education required for admission to three years; awarding the basic professional degree after two years, while leaving the third year as a elective or an internship; providing some training through apprenticeship; reducing expensive accreditation requirements to allow greater diversity among law schools; building on the burgeoning promises of internet-distance education; changing the economic relationship between law schools and universities; altering the influence of current ranking formulas; and modifying the federal student loan program. As legal educators, it is our responsibility to grapple with these issues before our institutions are reshaped in ways beyond our control.

The Coalition of Concerned Colleagues:
Anthony G. Amsterdam, New York University
Rhoda A. Billings, Wake Forest University
Paul Campos, University of Colorado
Paul Caron, Pepperdine University
Paul D. Carrington, Duke University
David L. Chambers, University of Michigan
Jesse H. Choper, University of California
Jim Chen, Michigan State University
Philip J. Closius, University of Baltimore
Roger C. Cramton, Cornell University (AALS President 1985)
Scott Cummings, University of California at Los Angeles
Charles E. Daye, University of North Carolina
Richard Delgado, Seattle University
Walter E. Dellinger, Duke University
Norman Dorsen, New York University
Frank W. Elliott, Texas Wesleyan University
Richard A. Epstein, New York University
Samuel Estreicher, New York University
Monroe H. Freedman, Hofstra University
Lawrence M. Friedman, Stanford University
Marc Galanter, University of Wisconsin
Julius Getman, University of Texas
Stephen Gillers, New York University
Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard University
Michelle Goodwin, University of Minnesota
Robert W. Gordon, Stanford University
Robert A. Gorman, University of Pennsylvania (AALS President 1990)
Phoebe Haddon, University of Maryland
Geoffrey C. Hazard, University of California, Hastings College of Law
William D. Henderson, Indiana University
Helen Hershkoff, New York University
Philip Heymann, Harvard University
N. William Hines, University of Iowa (AALS President 2004)
Mary Kay Kane, University of California Hastings College of Law (AALS President 2001)
Herma Hill Kay, University of California (AALS President 1989)
Orin Kerr, George Washington University
Patricia A. King, Georgetown University
Edmund W. Kitch, University of Virginia
William A. Klein, University of California at Los Angeles
George Lefcoe, University of Southern California
Richard A. Matasar, New York University
Deborah J. Merritt, The Ohio State University
Arthur R. Miller, New York University
James E. Moliterno, Washington & Lee University
Thomas D. Morgan, George Washington University (AALS President 1991)
Alan R. Morrison, George Washington University
Robert Nagel, University of Colorado
Burt Neuborne, New York University
Gene R. Nichol, University of North Carolina
Sallyanne Payton, University of Michigan
Richard A. Posner, University of Chicago
Todd Rakoff, Harvard University
Nancy B. Rapoport, University of Nevada
Deborah L. Rhode, Stanford University (AALS President 1998)
Daniel B. Rodriguez, Northwestern University (AALS President-Elect 2013)
Ronald D. Rotunda, University of Illinois
Edward L. Rubin, Vanderbilt University
Stephen A. Saltzburg, George Washington University
William H. Simon, Columbia University
Peter L. Strauss, Columbia University
Susan P. Sturm, Columbia University
Kent D. Syverud, Washington University
Brian Z. Tamanaha, Washington University
Michael E. Tigar, Duke University
Gerald Torres, University of Texas (AALS President 2004)
Robin L. West, Georgetown University
Michael Wishnie, Yale University

Press and blogosphere coverage:

For more on my views on the state of legal education, see The Law School Crisis: What Would Jimmy McMillan Do?, 31 Pepperdine Law 14 (Fall 2012).

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2013/03/67-law-profs-and-deans-.html

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"Unsurprisingly, debt burdens are unevenly spread and amplify racial and class disadvantages."

Is this true? I would have thought that racial minorities and the poor would receive more grant aid and less loan "aid" as part of their financial aid package. Any cite for this?

If it is true, it certainly undermines all of the access arguments you hear when people defend yet another law school opening.

Posted by: NotanURM | Mar 11, 2013 7:40:00 AM

"the median starting salary of the class, among the less than half of graduates for whom a salary was reported, was $60,000."

It would probably would have been better to point out the bi-modal nature of law salaries, and then provide information about both groupings. If I remember correctly, the salary chart I saw showed that $60,000 was at the high end of the lower mode.

Posted by: NotanURM | Mar 11, 2013 7:44:47 AM

"Yet at the same time, preoccupation with the annual ranking of schools by U.S. News and World Reports gives schools a perverse incentive to spend more in areas rewarded by the U.S. News formula."

Given that (i) the Top 14 schools haven't changed since the beginning of the US News rankings, and (ii) at the bottom of the list, they don't rank any school below 145, it seems that most of the aforementioned schools could opt out of the rankings with little consequences.

Just imagine a US News rankings that didn't include Yale or Stanford, or one that didn't include over 25% of the law schools in the country. It would have no credibility.

Posted by: NotanURM | Mar 11, 2013 7:55:45 AM

These are some impressive names.

But what exactly are they talking about and where is the evidence for their claims?

"Although the federal government and most law schools offer some loan repayment assistance to graduates who take public interest jobs, law school programs are often insufficiently funded and the federal programs do not provide full discharge until after 10 years of public interest employment."

What are they talking about by "do not provide full discharge"? All federal stafford and plus loans are discharged, and students can finance with 100 percent federal stafford and plus loans. No taxes either.

"Over the last three decades, the price of a legal education has increased approximately three times faster than the average household income."

The average household head never went to college. How has the price of law school increased compared to the average college graduate or law school graduate?

Are they looking at tuition, or net-tuition (less grants and scholarships)?

How does the price of law school compare to the value of law school?

"Unsurprisingly, debt burdens are unevenly spread and amplify racial and class disadvantages."

How do debt burdens amplify racial and class disadvantages? Minorities on average don't have parents who are as well off and come from bigger families, so less resources per child and less help with graduate school.

Debt burdens don't amplify racial and class disadvantages. They simply reflect them.

And by providing students who are not from rich families a way to finance an education, they help people overcome them.

"The price of legal education has risen as the job market for lawyers has declined. More than two out of every five 2011 graduates did not obtain a full-time long-term job requiring a law degree; the median starting salary of the class, among the less than half of graduates for whom a salary was reported, was $60,000. The problematic economics are captured by this fundamental mismatch: a graduate who earns the median salary cannot afford to make the monthly loan payments on the average debt."

The annual loan payments on $100,000 in debt are around $13,000 at current interest rates under the extended repayment plan.

If you're earning $60,000 with a law degree, and you would have made $30,000 with a bachelor's degree (or been unemployed), not only can you afford to pay $13,000, you're much better off paying $30,000.

The low rates of default for law grads reflect this.

And $60K is just a starting salary. It goes up from there very, very quickly.

The BLS estimates one job as a lawyer, not one job for a law school graduate. Many law graduates work in business, and they make more money than many lawyers.


This is just Tamanaha's factually unsupported research regurgitated.

So lets ask this question:

On this very long list of impressive names in legal education, how many PhD economists are there who have published peer-reviewed studies in labor economics or consumer finance?

By my count, not one.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 11, 2013 8:20:27 AM

correction:

"not only can you afford to pay $13,000, you're much better off paying $13,000 to make $60,000 than making 30,000 and paying zero."

Posted by: Anon | Mar 11, 2013 8:22:38 AM

How about increasing teaching loads and reducing emphasis on filling largely useless journals?

Posted by: save_the_rustbelt | Mar 11, 2013 9:42:21 AM

A glance at the signatories suggests that it consists largely of many of the most highly paid faculty members in the country. I notice that it does not suggest, among its solutions, that the most highly paid faculty members should take a pay cut.

Posted by: Kipper | Mar 11, 2013 9:51:02 AM

90% of the problems would be solved with across the board salary reductions for faculty and administration, in addition to elimination of any unnecessary individuals on the payroll. How come this solution is NEVER brought up among law school professionals as a potential solution?

Posted by: JM | Mar 11, 2013 10:10:40 AM

Anon at 8:20:27,

There's a lot misleading about what you said. For example:

1. You said it's better to pay $13k to make 60k, but no word about the three year opportunity cost?

2. Also, you set $30k as the default figure these individuals would make if they just sought a job with a bachelor's? Any basis for this? A teacher's starting salary is typically $45k/$50k. Most jobs in any industry would start at $40k.

3. Total unemployment risk is probably greater for having attended than not. I see you left out the significant percentage of law grads that are totally unemployed.

4. You also left out those employed in legal jobs, but making $40K. Recall, making $60K to start is well above the average outcome for a recent JD.

5. For those JD's going to into business, you fill the vacum of information in way very favorable to law schools. In reality, only T-14 JD's have good business alternatives.

At least the signatories are acknowledging a problem, even if their proposes solutions will be mostly futile and disregard the obvious measure of taking a paycut.

Posted by: JM | Mar 11, 2013 12:24:41 PM

"...fundamental problem of *** a lack of jobs, public interest or otherwise..."

That quote is from the letter. In my mind there are two problems that are really underlying what is going on. One problem is the lack of jobs, the other is the cost of the education.

The letter only addresses the cost issue. It completely ignores the job situation. Its suggested solution is to reduce the amount of education given to the student and to present them as fully credentialed lawyers with even less maturity than we see presently.

I am a private practitioner with more than three decades of experience. Within the last year two law school graduates have appeared at my office seeking work. I have never hired a lawyer as an employee and am not seeking employment applications. In each case the graduate had in excess of $150,000 in school loans. It seems certain that their appearance at my door was a consequence of desperation.

Reducing the amount of training and pushing even less mature people into the field, from my point of view, would only present more applicants to my door, albeit with less debt.

The world has changed. Many legal questions that took hours of time in the library to answer are now most of the way to an opinion with a Google search. Westlaw itself is often an expensive and unused tool. Clients now sometimes only call to ask for a lawyer’s verification of an answer that they have found after an Internet search.

I don’t think that the jobs are coming back, and those that do will require even higher levels of analysis and people skills than in the past. Younger and more poorly educated lawyers are not the answer.

I am afraid that modern legal education is becoming like my college slide rule that I keep on the back counter in my office, just to see who asks what it is.

Posted by: Allan Yackey | Mar 11, 2013 3:25:10 PM

I think the law school defenders here are missing an important fact: many graduates can't even find a $60k a year job. I know many young JDs working as contract attorneys on fixed fee projects that amount to minimum wage positions with no benefits. This isn't an abnormal situation. Many JDs feel lucky to get the public interest law positions with federal loan repayment. The "charity work" is very desirable in today's legal market.

Posted by: HTA | Mar 11, 2013 3:51:01 PM

"What are they talking about by "do not provide full discharge"? All federal stafford and plus loans are discharged, and students can finance with 100 percent federal stafford and plus loans. No taxes either."

That is an abject lie. The IRS absolutely counts the forgiven balances as realized income for everyone except those in PSLF. Most of the rest of your post is similarly distorted or misleading, and so I have no inclination to refute it. Most of the readership of this blog knows better, anyhow.

But I will address this point: "On this very long list of impressive names in legal education, how many PhD economists are there who have published peer-reviewed studies in labor economics or consumer finance?"

Richard Posner, who graduated #1 in his class at Harvard Law School, is the country's foremost law and economics intellectual, and is the most cited scholar of the 20th century (Shapiro, Fred R. (2000). "The Most-Cited Legal Scholars". Journal of Legal Studies 29 (1): 409–426.), is a signatory. How are you to refute him, I wonder?

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 11, 2013 4:08:28 PM

I have spoken in several places about the need for faculty (especially those of us who are most highly paid) to take pay cuts, as well as about the need for faculty to accept other changes. One of those places is in the post linked to at the end of the o.p., http://www.lawschoolcafe.org/thread/letter-to-the-aba/. I can't speak for any of the other letter signatories, but I think it's essential to avoid "magic thinking" on these issues.

Posted by: Deborah J Merritt | Mar 11, 2013 6:23:07 PM

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

(Henry 6th, Part 2, Act 4, sc. 2)

Posted by: Jake | Mar 11, 2013 9:03:07 PM

Yawn.

Ah, the discreet charm of the tenured bourgeoisie, rentier capitalists living off the depredations of their endowing benefactors as supplemented by the loans of their suffering students.

To write to the ABA from tenured perches at top-tier law schools (well, mostly) in order to bemoan the fate of hoi polloi below them is risible enough. It becomes contemptible when they add an dash of insincere class consciousness to their narrative. It is all somehow reminiscent of Wilde's definition of fox hunting, "the unspeakable in full pursuit of the inedible."

In truth, these are the tears of crocodiles. Remember the defendants who killed their parents and then begged the court for mercy as orphans? Well, here they are.

Ask yourself a very simple question, what is needed for a law school?

Where is Ivan Illich now that we need him?

Hell, where is Luis Buñuel for that matter?

Posted by: Antonio Gramsci, Esq. | Mar 11, 2013 9:58:09 PM

Kipper at 9:51 and JM at 10:10:

You need to know something. The university where I teach is typical. The law school could lower faculty salaries by 40%, or 50%, or more and likely our students would never see a difference in their tuition. Why? Because that extra margin would just go to the university administration, to be used for other university academic departments, or sports programs, or undergrad dorm renovations, or university administrators' salaries, or to build up the university endowment, or whatever the university administration thinks it should. The difference law students would see is that the best professors would move to another school or leave teaching. Law students would pay the same amount for a worse education.

The university administration sets the law school tuition. The law school does not. The law school could probably suggest lower faculty salaries and the university would accept that proposal, but would not pass that savings on to law students.

This is not a theoretical matter. As a matter of fact, the school where I teach effectively lowered faculty salaries by 10% last year and our students never noticed. Tuition did not/not go down -- by 10% or any other amount.

You may want to urge reduction of faculty salaries out of resentment against perceived authority figures or against sadistic pedagogues; or as a target for frustration with your own choices; or out of rage against economic structures that led to disappointment of your career aspirations in the near-term; or any of a million other reasons. But the reason behind your comment -- reduce faculty salaries to get lower tuition for students -- is nonsensical because the causal relationship you assume between faculty salaries and student tuition rates does not exist. Different kinds of shifts in economic structures, including for example a reduction in the first-year associate salaries offered by top law firms, might eventually lead to changes in law school tuition, but I can't see my classmates in law school having advocated for a lower potential starting salary. How many students would go to law school if the very best salaries available anywhere they had to look forward to were in the 70k range?

As far as I can tell at my university or elsewhere where I have any knowledge of inner workings, increasing teaching loads would likewise have no effect on tuition rates. And the scholarship/journals line is a complete red herring.

Posted by: jr. prof with loans too | Mar 12, 2013 1:03:20 AM

Jr. Prof -- if you read my post, I was saying the most highly paid faculty should take a pay cut, I assume you are not in that category, but most of the signatories to the petition are.

And your point that a reduction in costs in a law school will not necessarily reduce tuition because a University might just use the money elsewhere, but wouldn't that reasoning apply equally to all the cost saving reforms suggested in the letter?

Posted by: Kipper | Mar 12, 2013 6:35:17 AM

JM:

On opportunity costs, the folks who go to law school are overwhelmingly liberal arts or social science majors, not engineering, computer science, statistics, or business majors. At graduation, less than half of them have job offers according to the data.

For many of them, the opportunity cost is zero. For the rest, you're talking about maybe $20K per year, since they can work summers and part time while they are in law school. $60K per year is really not much when you consider how much more they will make over the course of a lifetime with the law degree.

And $60K is a high-estimate, since many of them would have simply been unemployed or only employed part time.

2. Your numbers about starting salary are incorrect at the national level. It's possible you're thinking about a particular part of the country where salaries are higher. Typical starting salaries for liberal arts and social science majors (with full-time job offers) are around $30K according to most data sources. Starting salaries for education majors are even lower, and they are very unlikely to have a job offer at graduation.

3. You're wrong about unemployment risk being higher if you attend law school. There is not a single data source that supports this view. If you think you are seeing it, someone is splicing together two or more data sources that use different definitions of employment or unemployment, and comparing two numbers that are not comparable.

4. Unless they are judicial clerks who are about to see their pay skyrocket in one or two years, the folks employed in legal jobs making $40K per year would probably have made $20K or $25K per year without the law degree, so they are still better off. The least capable and least motivated college graduates make the least money. And when the least capable and least motivated college graduates go on to law school, they make more than they would have without the law degree, but still less than their more capable and more motivated peers who have also gone to law school.


5. You're wrong again about business. After the JD shows that those working in business (but not as inside counsel) have earnings comparable to those practicing law at a midsized law firm. And that's true across law school tiers.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 12, 2013 8:41:57 AM

Unemployed Northeastern

Richard Posner's CV is here:
http://www.law.uchicago.edu/node/79/cv

As you can see quite clearly, he does not have a PhD in economics.

And if you've read his "law and economics" research, you know it's theoretical and not empirical.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 12, 2013 8:48:04 AM

Unemployed Northeastern,

You are wrong about the federal student loan forgiveness provisions and the tax treatment.

1. Those in public service get full forgiveness with no taxes after 10 years.

2. Those in private practice get a full forgiveness after 20 years (under the latest version), and they only have to pay taxes to the extent that the forgiveness renders increases their networth above zero.

So if you're so hard up that your loans prevent you from saving, when your loans are forgiven, you pay nothing.

And if you're doing well enough that you can afford to save money, why can't you pay back your loans?

Posted by: Anon | Mar 12, 2013 8:52:35 AM

Jr. Prof.,

You said...

"You may want to urge reduction of faculty salaries out of resentment against perceived authority figures or against sadistic pedagogues; or as a target for frustration with your own choices; or out of rage against economic structures that led to disappointment of your career aspirations in the near-term; or any of a million other reasons."

Not at all. I graduated from law school in '09, but have already paid all of my six-figure debt. I went from a major law firm, to a much smaller firm, where I've argued appellate briefs and significant dispositive motions. I really enjoy this work, just as I enjoyed law school. So, I don't have any of the resentment you suggest.

As for paycuts, faculty could easily make paycuts contingent on lowering tuition by a certain amount. This would still benefit the institution greatly, because it should get a better applicant pool. Or, the faculty could pool money and provide scholarships. Where there's a will, there's a way. Just admit to yourself that there isn't any such will here.

Across the board salary reductions for faculty AND administration is the only measure that will save the majority of law schools from closing. Even the distinguished faculty that signed this document have failed to wake up to this fact. They still have a sense of entitlement to a student body that has few job prospects and enormous debt.

Posted by: JM | Mar 12, 2013 9:22:15 AM

As a private professional with a law background (#1 in my law school class but eventually went into finance to make real money), I am amazed that you law profs can't see the proverbial forest through the trees. Like the mortgage meltdown, easy access to money for tuition allowed the schools to get fatter and fatter resulting in uneconomic, unsustainable decisions including prof comp, tuition levels, etc etc. Now, inevitably, when law school output far exceeds demand due to the economy and simple economics, it everybody else's fault. And, of course, when the tide goes out it exposes fraud and near-fraud and legal but questionable practices. And, of course, age-old issues come back to light like is legal education outdated in its current form? Just like every other industry that goes through this cycle, there will be structural not cyclical change. Get with the program or you will be a victim of it. Admissions are going down. Comp is going down. Law schools will merge. Law schools will go out of business. Endowments will fall. Education will be streamlined and much more practical. Schools that actually train people to practice law will be at a premium. The Socratic method will go the way of the dinosaur. Law journals will become less important if important at all. Tenure will be threatened. This is all brought about by the school, profs, administrators and everyone else in the chain allowing the cheap money tsumnami to drown their judgment in good old American greed. It's time to go on a diet. Don't blame anyone but yourself. You're too fat, you don't exercise and you need a make-over lifestyle change. Cheers.

Posted by: Jay | Mar 12, 2013 9:34:14 AM

You manage to stay pretty anonymous for someone so obsessed with pedigree and credentials. What are yours, I wonder, to know so much more than a sitting CoA judge and public intellectual? Especially since so much of your information is, what's the word? Wrong. For the record, I have read a few of Posner's books during my current and ever-growing multi-year unemployment stint after passing the bar exam, with "How Judges Think" being the most recent; I think far more highly of them than your own anonymous and usually false pap.

As for the taxable implications of IBR/PAYE, let's show our hands:

http://www.finaid.org/loans/ibr.phtml

"The maximum repayment period is 25 years. After 25 years, any remaining debt will be discharged (forgiven). Under current law, the amount of debt discharged is treated as taxable income, so you will have to pay income taxes 25 years from now on the amount discharged that year."

http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-based

"You may have to pay taxes on any loan amount that is forgiven after 25 years." [it says may because the page discusses both IBR and PSLF - which does have non-taxable interest]

http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/pay-as-you-earn

"You may have to pay taxes on any loan amount that is forgiven after 20 years." [again, this page discusses PSLF as well as PAYE]

Some other corroboration:

http://askheatherjarvis.com/blog/pay-as-you-earn-hotter-than-IBR [financial aid professional's website]

FedLoan Servicing training guide: they send 1099-C (cancellation of debt) forms to the IRS at the end of IBR/PAYE periods. http://www.myfedloan.org/schools/docs/NPRM-Webinar-QnA.pdf

Shall I keep going? It truly is amazing how you, anonymous law school supporter, know even more about the tax implications of IBR/PAYE than the federal government that created the programs and the student loan professionals and organizations that exist to counsel students and graduates. I'd love to see your cites for the non-taxability of balances under IBR and PAYE; particularly cites that have ".gov" in them.

Of course, one should mention that the no existing law school graduate is eligible for PAYE, as a requirement of eligibility is that the first student loan taken out is after 10/1/07. Since you are a PhD labor economist, surely you have the analytical skills required to see that 2007 is less than seven years ago, which is how long it takes to get through college and law school.

Why keep this up, anon? You've been stalking this board for more than a year, to no avail. The folk who read taxprof blog are not prospective students who may fall for your oleaginous and false statements. You aren't convincing anyone. Why not head over to Top Law Schools or Above the Law with this act? Further, your casual dismissal of 67 concerned law profs includes none other than Paul Caron, who runs this very site. Part of me thinks you are a fellow bored, unemployed law school grad stirring the pot. Why are you here? Where are your cites? What are your credentials, I wonder?

Where are your cites?

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Mar 12, 2013 10:46:32 AM

Anon at March 12 8:41 AM,

1. If what you said is taken as true, then it's really an indictment of being a liberal arts major more than anything. Very few adults in their 30's make $20-30k.

2. You still take the $60k figure as a common outcome. I'd guess no more than a third of recent grads get this type of job.

3. You say that the $60k escalates very quickly. It does not, and you have no basis for this claim. The most a firm of 2-10 lawyers will pay an associate of any experience is probably $80k, and that raise would come over 10 years.

4. Your assumption that law students had no other options before enrolling is self-serving and false.

5. Nothing you have said addresses why law schools should cost so much more now than they did 20 years ago.

Finally, spokespeople for non T-30 schools tend to speak of aggregate employment outcomes across all law schools. In fact, a pre-law individual could be advised with much more specificity than that. At certain schools, there is a near certain chance of a tremoundous return; at other schools failure is just as much a near certainty. Once this transparency predominates, the latter schools will be on borrowed time.

Posted by: JM | Mar 12, 2013 12:28:48 PM

JM at Mar 12, 2013 12:28:48 PM,

1. Recent college graduates and law school graduates are for the most part in their mid 20s, not in their 30s. Earnings at graduation are the lowest they will ever be in their lives.

As bad as things may seem for liberal arts majors, they are much worse for those with only a high school diploma or below. Median per capita U.S. income is around $30,000.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_income_in_the_United_States

A law degree is way better than a liberal arts degree. A liberal arts degree is way better than a high school diploma. A high school diploma is way better than nothing.

2. 60K is slightly below the median starting salary. 50+ percent of recent graduates with any kind of job make more than this. And that's just salary, just in their first year.

3. Salaries for law grads increase rapidly. Just look at any of the empirical studies that track law graduates over time.

4. Not no other options. Just not very good ones for many enrollees. Especially the ones at lower ranked schools. Again, look at outcomes for liberal arts majors.

5. It doesn't matter if law school costs more or less than it did 20 years ago. It only matters whether law school costs less than its worth.

And it does.

But since you asked why law school costs more, the answer is simple. It's costs more because it is worth more. It's worth more, because the earnings premium for those with higher education has increased and those with higher levels of education have seen their life expectancy and worklives increase more than those with less education.

As for "failure" being a near certainty at some schools--where's your evidence, and what constitutes failure?

Students who go to lower ranked law schools typically have worse college grades, lower standardized test scores, come from less well connected families, went to lower ranked colleges and have worse prospects without law school.

Of course they don't do as well as the students at higher ranked law schools who started out in much better position to begin with.

But the students at the non-elite schools are still getting a huge boost from law school and doing much better than they would have without the law degree.

Posted by: Anon | Mar 25, 2013 3:02:53 PM