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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, March 18, 2013

Merit Scholarships: 69% of Students Retain Them, 47% of Law Schools Fail to Comply With ABA Disclosure Rules

DiceNational Jurist (Mar. 2013):  Cloak of Darkness Fades on Merit Scholarships:

Law schools are now required to post the retention rate of their merit scholarships on their websites, which means [prospective] students, for the first time, can get an idea of what kind of odds they have of maintaining the scholarships.

Before, many complained they weren't aware of how difficult it could be to meet the academic standards to keep the scholarships. So they either lost them or saw them reduced and found themselves on the hook for more tuition.

A bait and switch, some called it.

Well, it's goodbye bait. ...

The ABA made the decision in August to require schools to post the information and told them to begin doing so by October 15. It also required the schools to include that information to the students when they are being offered the scholarships.

The action was in response to a growing concern regarding the number of students that was failing to meet the academic requirements some of the law schools had set to maintain the scholarships. Different schools have different criteria, such as requiring students to keep a certain grade point average or be in the top third of their classes to keep the scholarships. But some schools were accused of providing more scholarships to incoming classes than could possibly be matched in subsequent years -- meaning some students would always lose out.

The practice was giving law schools a black eye, especially when The New York Times published an article on the practice in April 2011 [Law Schools Award Merit Scholarships to Recruit Students (and Goose U.S. News Ranking), And Then Take Them Away With Rigid Grading Curves]. ...

One of the schools highlighted in The New York Times report, the Golden Gate University School of Law, wouldn't disclose the retention rate at the time of the article, citing student privacy. But it now has the information posted on its website. Of the 86 who received merit scholarships in 2012, 43 saw them lost or reduced -- a 50% rate.

Jerry Organ, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law -- Minneapolis who's been a watchdog on this issue, praised the ABA's nenew policy as a step in the right direction. ...Organ has one complaint, though: A number of schools have yet to comply. He's bbeen collecting the data, hoping to analyze them for trends. But, by his estimate, 90 law schools still haven't posted the required information.

Twenty-four schools either do not offer merit scholarships or only require students to be in good academic standing -- that means maintaining a 2.0 GPA -- to retain their scholarships. So they were not included in his research.

The number of schools complying thus is 79, he said. Of those, the retention rate averages 69%, Organ found. Fifteen have a rate that's better than 90%. Four are under 40%. The rest fall somewhere in between.

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