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Friday, April 5, 2013

Arizona Cuts Law School Tuition by 11%

Arizona LogoNational Law Journal:  Arizona Cuts Law School Tuition, Marking a First, by Karen Sloan:

Is the era of law school tuition decreases upon us?

The Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously approved an 11% tuition cut for in-state residents at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and an 8% reduction for nonresidents.

The move would appear to be the first significant law school tuition reduction since nationwide application totals began to decline in 2011. It offers evidence that the list prices for a law school education, which have far outpaced inflation for more than a decade, are beginning to reflect supply and demand. ...

The decrease is intended in part to make the school more appealing and accessible, said interim law dean Marc Miller. Applications are down by about 10% compared to one year ago, although the law school intends to accept applications past the formal February 15 deadline. Nationwide, the number of law school applicants is down by about 17%, according to the Law School Admission Council.

Annual tuition for Arizona residents will be $24,381, a cut of about $3,000 per year. Non-resident tuition will be $38,841, about $3,500 less per year. ...

The law school plans to make up for the lost revenue by expanding existing master of laws and doctor of juridical science programs and introducing a new LL.M. for non-lawyers. It also plans to reduce its pool of scholarship money.

The university regents voted to maintain existing tuition rates at Arizona State University Sandra Day O'Connor College of the Law at $26,267 for resident students and $40,815 for nonresidents.

Arizona's tuition decrease doesn't go far enough, said Brian Tamanaha, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and the author of Failing Law Schools.
"Although I applaud it, this strikes me as mostly symbolic," he said. "Their tuition is too high for the types of jobs available in Arizona, so an 11% reduction is not enough. Tuition must go below $20,000 for to better align cost and economic return for the majority of students." ... Tamanaha was unsure whether the lower tuition would make the school more competitive with in-state rival ASU but was skeptical that other law schools would voluntarily follow Arizona's lead. He thought tuition declines of 25% or more would be needed to fill the seats as some law schools....

[A]dministrators plan to market their lower rates to potential students, particularly in California, where resident tuition at public law schools is equal or higher to Arizona's nonresident tuition.

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Tuition at Washington University St. Louis is currently $46,710.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Apr 5, 2013 7:37:30 AM

When the dust settles, schools will realize that they need to cut tuition by at least 50% in order for rational individuals to choose to attend. The fact that Arizona is scuttling around to make up the revenue difference for only an 11% cut is a bad sign for them (and other schools).

Posted by: JM | Apr 5, 2013 8:13:32 AM

This is the beginning of structural change in the law school world that anyone paying attenton could forsee a mile away. Of course it comes in a public university first and is as much symbolic as substantive. Can't wait to watch the overwhelmingly Obama-loving, ultra-liberal, risk averse law prof community react when the walls start to close in and there is no bail-out for them. Overdue for some air to be let out of the pomposity balloon and for the real world to invade law schools. Watch out below!

Posted by: JayGo | Apr 5, 2013 9:01:37 AM

When asked to comment, I should have given Arizona more praise for making this move. It is extremely difficult to cut tuition. Every step in the right direction is a good step. And needless to say, I believe that tuition at my own law school is too high and should also come down.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | Apr 5, 2013 9:44:14 AM

Professor Seto:

Tuition - $44,230, COA - $71,000
US News Rank: 68 (way down from previous years)
Employed at graduation: 22.6% (per US News) (SERIOUSLY?)

Washington Univ. SL:
Tuition - $46,170, COA - $61,000
US News Rank: 19
Employed at graduation: 52.7%

Does Loyola LA plan to cut tuition too? Because if you don't, you should consider merging with Southwestern.

Posted by: Forgotten Attorney | Apr 5, 2013 11:18:19 AM

"When asked to comment, I should have given Arizona more praise for making this move. It is extremely difficult to cut tuition. Every step in the right direction is a good step. And needless to say, I believe that tuition at my own law school is too high and should also come down."

Brian, I could not disagree with you any more. It is not hard to cut tuition at all when numerous professors and deans are making over $200K, and sometimes twice that.

Also, there should be no praise or condemnation for a school's tuition level. There should only be condenmation for deceiving students about post-graduation employment opportunties.

The deep-seated sense of entitlement within law schools and law professors is perhaps most visable when they talk about their tuition level in terms of what is, for lack of a better term, morally reasonable, as opposed to what makes rational economic sense for their prospective students. The vast majority of law professors and Deans went to elite schools, but teach at average ones. They would have never made a choice to attend their own institution as a student. In fact, they would likely have chosen not to go to law school if their institution was their best option. Why is it so hard to believe that other individuals will think for themselves with the same clarity?

Posted by: JM | Apr 5, 2013 11:54:52 AM

I think we need to ask a few questions:

1) How many legal jobs/J.D. advantage jobs are available? Most law schools should reduce class size. If a professional degree doesn't open up doors, why is it even being offered? We might retool the curricula to expand the appeal of the degree, but I don't think this will lead to any monumental change in employment prospects. The legal jobs are just not there and at some point a legal education becomes nonlegal.
2) What salary can a graduate reasonably procure in the jobs mentioned above? We don't need to price a J.D. for the lowest paying job, but we certainly shouldn't expect six figure salaries anymore. My gut tells me that the vast majority of schools should have graduates that leave with total debt less than $75,000-90,000 each. I'm essentially assuming that most legal jobs pay between $50,000-$60,000 and sustaining student loans at 1.5x starting salary is manageable. Both of those assumptions could be wrong.

I wonder what others think. Am I asking too much from law schools or not enough?

Posted by: HTA | Apr 5, 2013 3:21:08 PM

JM above hits the nail on the head. When did a deanship or tenured professorship at a law school become such a sinecure that the incumbents may emulate Marie Antoinette in their attitudes toward law students? Prospective law students -- caveat emptor!

Posted by: Jake | Apr 6, 2013 1:54:07 PM