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

Monday, March 31, 2014

In Wake of 70% Enrollment Decline, La Verne Adopts Flat-Rate Law School Tuition Model

LaVerneNational Law Journal, La Verne Offers Flat-Rate Law School Tuition:

The University of La Verne College of Law is getting out of the tuition discounting game and rolling out what appears to be the first true flat-rate tuition system at an ABA-accredited law school.

Starting next fall, all Law Verne law students will pay $25,000 to attend full time and $19,600 to attend part-time—without the scholarships and discounts that many law schools have leaned on as they competed for a smaller pool of prospective students.

“The time has come to tell the truth about the cost of legal education,” La Verne law dean Gilbert Holmes said.

According to law school administrators, the change will lower the amount many students pay for their legal education. The new tuition will be $14,900 less than the existing $39,900 list price.

Second, the new system would eliminate the common practice of granting generous scholarships to applicants with high Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages at the expense of lower-scoring students who might have a greater need for financial aid.

Finally, the flat-rate pricing is intended to make the Ontario, Calif., law school more appealing to prospective students. Many law schools have been hit by declining enrollments, but that reality has been especially dire at La Verne, which welcomed just 50 new students this fall, compared to 166 in 2010—a nearly 70 percent decline.

In addition, La Verne is contending with questions about its quality. The ABA in 2011 revoked the school’s provisional accreditation amid concern over low bar passage rates. The provisional accreditation was reinstated less than a year later, after the bar pass rate improved. ...

All new entering students will pay the $25,000 for each of the next three years. Already enrolled students will also pay $25,000—unless their existing scholarships would bring their bills below that mark, in which case they will continue to pay the lower rate.

Holmes, who has been dean at La Verne for less than a year, got the idea for flat-rate tuition from Washington University in St. Louis law professor Brian Tamanaha’s 2012 book, “Failing Law Schools.”

Inside Higher Ed, Law School Ends Discounts:

Holmes said ending tuition discounting is not for everyone, particularly law schools that are concerned about their rankings.

“I’ve spoken to other deans who have said, 'You know Gil, that’s a really a noble idea, but you’re kind of engaging in unilateral disarmament,' ” he said.

Holmes said law schools in states with only a few law schools — like New Mexico and West Virginia, which only have one law school, or Iowa, which has two — or with solid reputations could stop tuition discounting without losing many of the students they desire.

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This is the tuition model of the future. Steep discounts for premier students don't really benefit middle-of-the-pack law schools. These schools need to focus on providing value to their average students. If abolishing merit scholarships is combined with major cost cutting efforts, tuition plus fees can get down to $20k/yr. It needs to be at least that low to be considered a worthwhile investment.

Posted by: JM | Mar 31, 2014 5:56:34 AM