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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Iowa Shrinks 1L Class by 40%, to 94 Students

Iowa LogoThe Daily Iowan, Inside Higher Ed, and Lawyers. Guns & Money discuss the dramatic reduction in the size of the entering 1L class at the University of Iowa College of Law (ranked #26 overall and #28 in academic peer reputation in the 2014 U.S. News Law School Rankings):

2010:  203
2011:  180
2012:  155
2013:  94

Update: Above the Law, Second-Tier Law Schools Shrink As They Stubbornly Keep Tuition High

Legal Education | Permalink


Is this a conscious decision? Or circumstances? Do I need to download something to get a complete story?

Posted by: Shubha Ghosh | Sep 26, 2013 7:36:35 AM


I am sure it is a conscious decision to maintain admissions standards despite a large decline in qualified applicants. Something has to give.

Posted by: JM | Sep 26, 2013 12:08:36 PM

As a graduate of Iowa Law School (1986, With Distinction), I found this interesting and timely given the number of young attorneys out there, the cost of education, and the weak "new normal" of our economy.

On a related note, I enjoyed my time there and received a good education, but the school was moving hard left even then. I was with my Divorce Mediation instructor in a car the day the Challenger exploded. We heard it on the radio. As students we were shocked and saddened, but her reply was: "We waste so much money on space when so many are hungry and poor. Big deal. Maybe we will get the message now." (No, I am not kidding.)

Since that time I have come to realize (reading the school's Alumni magazine, talking with other graduates, observing) that the majority of the graduates were and are being indoctrinated into little more than street agitators with a law degree. We might charitably label them "community organizers."

Hence my decision to never give the school even one thin dime.

Posted by: Ted Savas | Sep 26, 2013 12:32:18 PM

Not yet a good deal for John Q Public! 95 students * average federal student loan debt loan of 110,000. at Iowa = 10,450,000. in subsidies. Ten and a half million bucks to educated 95 kids, half of whom won't find work as lawyers. Rah rah rah! Cut the public subsidies to law school NOW.

Posted by: GM | Sep 26, 2013 12:46:12 PM

Great results. Another 50% reduction would be about right for sustainability. Can't happen soon enough.

Posted by: doc | Sep 26, 2013 2:31:22 PM

Iowa's class statistics were good, but not particularly great, before applications fell off the cliff this year. Can you really have a law school in the top 25 with a sub-160 median LSAT? Previous class stats flirted with 160 and I suspect Iowa wanted to keep its LSAT above that threshold. I'm very curious to see how different law schools held up in this difficult application environment. A number of good institutions are hurting.

Posted by: HTA | Sep 26, 2013 2:45:38 PM

Agreed in full. But would you rather have a poorly trained lawyer or a poorly trained doctor? Medical schools will soon be going through the same excrutiating process. Thank Obamacare.

Posted by: Charles | Sep 26, 2013 5:26:38 PM

The actual class size is 94. Some smart lad didn't show up when classes started.

Source: Actual Iowa Law Student

The decision was dictated by circumstances. The law school is now pressing hard to get money in the door from donors to raise $50m to keep funding positions before the big layoffs happen. Supposedly the career services office was told they need to hit 85% employment or they lose their own jobs. Good luck in this economy, I'll be seeing those bureaucrats in the unemployment line.

Posted by: HawkLawl | Sep 26, 2013 6:32:41 PM

To Ted Savas -- some "community organizers" go on to successful careers.

Posted by: Barack | Sep 27, 2013 4:09:36 AM

Hi, JM: I suppose all decisions are conscious since any law school could just let anyone in without making enough trade-offs. I am assuming Iowa received more than 95 applications. My question was whether the decline was due to a decision that smaller is better (my view) or to circumstances (this is the best we can do given consideration of rankings, actual applications, realities of placement, etc).

Posted by: Shubha Ghosh | Sep 27, 2013 4:52:02 AM

Career services staff can't manufacture jobs. Even lawyers with a few years under their belt have trouble finding work these days. I was told that commercial litigation job postings in my geographical area are only open for a day or two before employers take them down. Employer inboxes are just filled with resumes from lawyers with several years of experience. All of this is anecdotal, but I suspect we've experienced some sort of structural change.

Posted by: HTA | Sep 27, 2013 7:14:30 AM

Hi Shubha,

I have little doubt that circumstances forced this change. Think of it like an airline; whatever the size of your plane, you want to be at or near capacity. Maybe Iowa and a number of other schools will make a conscious decision to become smaller, and that will mean letting go of faculty and staff. But I have not heard of them doing that yet.

I think it will be a good development if law school class sizes (along w/ faculty and staff) shrink dramatically. They will become more like medical school, where the majority of students across all schools are of high quality, and they get terrific personalized instruction.

Posted by: JM | Sep 27, 2013 8:29:10 AM

I think we are in agreement, JM. Interesting to see what happens when (if?) we return to a state of normalcy. Will schools like Iowa go back to full capacity? That's part of what I meant by conscious choice.

Posted by: Shubha | Sep 27, 2013 3:14:25 PM

UC Davis Dean gloats about making up for lost J.D. cattle with increased LL.M. and transfer heads. Says school enrolls a "robust number" of heads in an era of declining interest in law school.

Law schools are in a desperate state of gross self preservation, and it's sickening: No, this isn't a headline in the Onion, it's an actual UC Davis press release!!! Could things get any more pathetic in legal education? My guess is...Ya:

Posted by: Anon | Sep 27, 2013 10:40:47 PM

JM: the real test is what happens when, or if, there is a return to normalcy. Will schools scale back up to full capacity, or even beyond to compensate for past lost revenues?

Posted by: Shubha | Sep 28, 2013 7:15:34 AM

@Anon: UC Davis Dean is not gloating. Just stating what a good dean of a law school similar to Wisconsin can do.

Posted by: Shubha Ghosh | Oct 1, 2013 4:52:19 AM


If there was a return to pre-2011 applications, then they would immediately expand enrollment. But there won’t be. In fact, applications will continue to drop at a precipitous rate (~10%/yr) for at least the next 3-5 years. The economics of law school just don’t make sense for the vast majority of prospective students.

Many schools will eventually make the choice to abandon all admissions standards, and let in anyone that is willing to pay the full tuition. This will temporarily increase revenue, but there will be little joy in teaching.

Posted by: JM | Oct 1, 2013 6:43:21 AM