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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Case Western's Entering 1L Class Shrinks 37%

Case LogoCleveland Plain Dealer, Law School Curriculum Undergoes Sweeping Changes at Case Western Reserve University:

Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law is radically revamping its curriculum to give students more skills and experience so they can find jobs after graduation. The moves, overwhelmingly approved by faculty last week, come as the law school, like others across the country, grapples with declining admissions and enrollment. ...

The new curriculum will require students to write more, work with clients beginning their first semester and spend at least a semester during their third year in an externship or clinical position. Students must also take leadership courses taught by faculty at the Weatherhead School of Management. The school will also offer summer courses, at no extra charge, so students can gain professional experience during the fall or spring semesters. “Other law schools are doing pieces of what we will be doing but nobody has put together what we have and integrated the professionalism, the skills and the theory,” said Dean Lawrence Mitchell. ...

CWRU’s law school enrollment is 104 this fall, about 40 students less than optimum, Mitchell said. It enrolled 190 in 2011 and 165 in 2012. This year’s class is smaller than expected because the school wanted to maintain a high quality of students, he said. He had to reduce staff to meet his budget and some non-tenure track faculty were not retained, he said. Annual tuition is $46,700.

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The outgoing class (graduating 2013) is 236. That means the actual dropoff in enrollment starting this fall will be 132. If we assume that each of these students pays an average actual tuition of $30,000, then Case Western will have a $4 million revenue shortfall.

If Case Western enrolls a similarly sized class next year, the they will be down another 90 students.

How long can this go on?

Posted by: JM | Aug 21, 2013 6:37:31 AM

A note that I graduated from Case in 2006, and my graduating class was I think 230.

Posted by: Anonymous | Aug 21, 2013 7:37:58 AM

You guys are ignoring the transfer practices that are frequent in these types of situations. Many schools who cut their entering classes make up for it by having liberal transfer policies - including some frequently large total numbers of students transferring in. The ABA does not require reporting of transfer LSAT or UGPA. So schools can act as if they are maintaining those numbers and tell everyone they are maintaining those numbers when in truth they are not - all with the help of the ABA.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 22, 2013 9:23:59 AM

Case '57. Will similar reductions be in store University-wide? Isn't all of higher education on a bursting bubble? Is the law school just the start?

Posted by: Tom Beebe | Aug 22, 2013 11:17:04 AM

Anon @ 12:23

For exactly the reasons you state, Case Western 1Ls are a high risk to transfer to higher ranked schools, like George Washington or Fordham. I really doubt that Case Western will have a net gain in the transfer game; if it does, it will be negligible. It just isn't a highly desirable school to attend.

Posted by: JM | Aug 22, 2013 11:21:45 AM

Yes, at Case Western we’ve shrunk our class size dramatically over the past four years, and it’s a good thing too. Our faculty first voted in favor of class reductions about a decade ago. Now it’s finally happening, and the reduction is likely to be permanent. Faced with a choice between shrinking the class or lowering admission standards, we chose the former. Lowering standards may fill out a class, and provide more tuition revenue, but at great cost to past and present students and the school. That was not a choice we were willing to make. A smaller class, combined with our revamped curriculum, will make us better able to serve our students, both in and out of class. It requires some belt-tightening and demands more of faculty, but it’s worth it. (Besides, us faculty types are an awfully privileged lot.)

Posted by: Jonathan H. Adler | Aug 22, 2013 3:51:54 PM

"That was not a choice we were willing to make"

Mr. Adler,

By your own admission, it sounds like a "choice" you were willing to make for nearly a decade.

"Our faculty first voted in favor of class reductions about a decade ago. Now it’s finally happening..."

Posted by: cas127 | Aug 22, 2013 9:35:12 PM

You misconstrued Mr. Adler’s comment. Just because the faculty voted for something ten years ago that was not implemented until now does not mean that the school was faced with the ultimate choice ten years ago of lowering standards vs lowering enrollment.

Posted by: Erik L. Smith | Aug 22, 2013 11:25:39 PM

cas127 - Re-read the antecedent. It's true we should have begun shrinking our class earlier than we did. But until recently, maintaining a larger class would not have forced us to lower our admission standards. As with other schools, it's easy to keep larger classes when the applicant pool is increasing.

Posted by: Jonathan H. Adler | Aug 23, 2013 3:41:37 AM

A couple questions Professor Adler:

“As with other schools, it's easy to keep larger classes when the applicant pool is increasing.”

While it is “easy” to enroll larger classes with an increasing applicant pool, was it ethical to do so when over half your graduating class failed to obtain legal jobs?

How much of Case’s decision to enroll fewer students this year was based upon its desire to maintain its ranking in US News and World Report and how much of it was based on the faculty’s decade old decision to reduce class size which it failed to implement for over 5 years?

Posted by: X | Aug 23, 2013 8:07:38 AM


Your instinct is right, you just picked the wrong target. What Case Western has had no problem with for the last decade is raising tuition annually at an unjustifiable rate. If you had said that, Adler would have no response for you.

Posted by: JM | Aug 23, 2013 9:38:18 AM

X -
Our employment numbers are not what they should be. That said, the LST "score" is not an accurate reflection of our employment outcomes. We've long had a disproportionate share of our alums choose to go into business and other "non-law" fields. Because these jobs don't require a JD, LST discounts them (as does U.S. News). But insofar as that's what many of our students want to do, we're not going to push them in directions that are better for some ranking if it doesn't help them have the sort of career they'd like to have.
As for the choices we've made, it's only recently that CWRU has had a Dean willing to shrink our class size and demand of faculty what is necessary to make that happen, and the school will be better for it.
JM is correct that our tuition has gone up faster than I would like. I would note, however, that our graduates' average debt load is significantly lower than many schools with comparable costs. As one concerned about student debt, that's the number I put more focus on.


Posted by: Jonathan H. Adler | Aug 26, 2013 7:13:52 AM

How will this impact CWRU's USNWR rank?

[Class of '92 grad, who spends time with SMU, Baylor and Tulane grads.]

Posted by: BOLO | Aug 26, 2013 12:53:57 PM