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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

After 58% Decline In Enrollment, Seton Hall Law School Adapts To New Market

Seton Hall LogoNorthJersey.com, Law Schools Rebound From Years of Declining Enrollment:

As fewer people enroll in law school, institutions across the country have been forced to adapt to a legal marketplace hurt by fewer jobs, outsourcing and the impact of the Internet.

Seton Hall and Rutgers University law schools, like many of those elsewhere, have reduced the number of students they admit, offered larger scholarships or grants, and readjusted their programs so students are better-prepared for the competitive and evolving job market. ...

At Seton Hall, the average class size of incoming students has steadily shrunk in recent years. In 2010, the Seton Hall law program peaked with an incoming class of 360 students. The next year, the school enrolled only 271. By 2013, the acceleration of class size reduction, which was averaging about 70 students less each year, had slowed. The school's most recent incoming class totaled 152 students, 17 students fewer than in 2014.

"Our response to the downturn was to maintain the quality of our standards," said Kathleen Boozang, dean of Seton Hall Law in Newark. She said that by shrinking the number of students it admitted, the school was able to continue to recruit qualified candidates. [Seton Hall's 25/50/75 LSAT fells from 155/159/161 in 2011 to 152/156/159 in 2014. ...

John Oberdiek, Rutgers Law School co-dean, said the institution took a similar approach. Though enrollment numbers this year technically jumped with this past summer's merger of Rutgers' two law programs in Newark and Camden, Oberdiek said the Camden school "shrunk [class sizes] and we did that to maintain our historical standards, and to be responsive of the employment market."

Before the merger, the number of students enrolled at the Newark program fell from the "ideal" total of about 180 students before the recession to about 150 students, said another co-dean, Ronald Chen. ...

On average, Seton Hall Law and Rutgers offer eligible students the opportunity to cover nearly half of their tuition through grants, according to information on the magazine's website. One year of tuition for a full-time law school student at Seton Hall is listed as slightly over $50,000; about 70 percent of full-time students received grants in 2013-14, with the average grant per full-time student estimated at $25,000. At Rutgers, tuition for a New Jersey resident is about $26,000 per year; about 45 percent of its Newark students and 57 percent of its Camden students got grants that averaged $10,000.

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Comments

...And Seton Hall's median salary, according to the NALP, is just $54k. And that's with only a 64% response rate; the true median is undoubtedly lower. And so grads will need to go on PAYE, and they won't ever touch their principals, the government will eat the cost of the loans, and those kid will get a massive tax bill on the forgiveness in their middle age.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 17, 2015 11:38:23 AM

Some back of the envelope math on Seton Hall for the foreseeable fiscal years:
~500 total students including LLMs
~$30,000 in average tuition per student
~$15 million in tuition revenue per year

Seton Hall has about 50 full time faculty members and another 80 part time/library faculty. I have to think the total budget for a school this size is $18-20 million. Someone with more knowledge is free to correct me if I'm wrong.

There is only some much savings to be had in firing staff. At some point, you get down to the skeleton crew. So the questions becomes, at what point do you trim full time faculty to reflect the drastically lower enrollment? I thought a memo circulated a couple years ago to younger faculty without tenure that they might be let go. I'd have to think that move is still on the table and being actively discussed. It will be very interesting to see if a certain young law professor continues to write articles about the miraculous earning power of a law degree if he finds himself unemployed.

Posted by: JM | Nov 17, 2015 12:16:30 PM

That is a big decline. It also is a significant decline in LSATs from 155 to 152 at the 25 percent level, although not terrible.

The interesting thing is that despite slashing enrollment by more than half, Seton Hall still could not preserve student quality.

Not to single them out either. Seton Hall is a perfectly respectable regional school in the NYC area. There are probably 5 or 6 schools that are worse than SH within 150 miles. What does that tell you about what's going on at the others?

Posted by: Jojo | Nov 17, 2015 12:19:43 PM

@JM,

"Between 2010 and 2012, Seton Hall University School of Law in Newark, N.J., cut its enrollment 43%. Last month, the school gave notice to seven untenured professors that their contracts might not be renewed for the 2014-15 academic year." Wall Street Journal at https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323664204578607810292433272. That was the same month as one of those untenured faculty members published Million Dollar Degree, if memory serves.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 17, 2015 1:57:15 PM

@ Jojo "What does that tell you about what's going on at the others?"

Dean Allard is taking in anyone who can sign on the dotted line and praying for the supreme court to declare the bar exam unconstitutional and that every law school dean deserves a fruit basket for their trouble.

Posted by: terry malloy | Nov 17, 2015 5:32:01 PM

Typical. Law school critics claim that they just want better information about law graduate outcomes while insisting that they know in their hearts that law schools need to shrink enrollments.

Along comes a peer reviewed study with the best data and the best methods. It must have taken years to produce--it was not written in a month. Unfortunately, it shows that the critics are wrong. And in spite of trying, the critics can't find a single thing wrong with it.

One of the two authors happens to be at a law school which has done exactly what they insist they always wanted. The other is at a business school and doesn't have a dog in the law school fight.

The critics response? Slander the law school and one of the authors of the study.

Posted by: math@math.com | Nov 18, 2015 6:44:11 AM

Sigh.

Math@math might want to look at the repayment calculators over at finaid.org, 'cuz that's where I do my modelling. As for that best data, times have changed since the 1990's and early 2000's. That study's average student loan debt, for instance, wouldn't cover three semester's tuition and living expenses at Seton Hall or any other number of law schools today. Fact. And plenty of people with actual graduate education in economics and other social sciences found plenty wrong with the paper. Harper, Leichter, etc. As for "slander," that's oral, not written. You're thinking of libel. Check your Black's Legal Dictionary. Whoopsie. If you can't even get that right, why should we take any of the rest of your comment seriously?

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 18, 2015 8:27:55 AM

Also, I noted a temporal correlation between the announcement of possible layoffs at Seton Hall and the release of the S&M paper. Both events occurred in July of 2013 (or at least that's when the legal blawgosphere started to talk about S&M; the SSRN page says April of 2013). But of course correlation is not causation, and I said not one word about causation, did I? One would think double-math would know that very basic rule of statistical analysis...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Nov 18, 2015 8:37:42 AM

"Law school critics claim that they just want better information about law graduate outcomes"

We got it. LST. That's why smart people are steering clear of law school.

That peer reviewed advertisement for student loans doesn't stand up to a single conversation with any law school graduate after 2007.

Posted by: terry malloy | Nov 18, 2015 10:09:22 AM

The journalist in this article starts by noting "a legal marketplace hurt by fewer jobs". Is that even true? It seems to me like the only thing that changed was that a deceptive $105K starting salary is now publicly widely known to be closer to $55K. I think the only thing that changed was the transparency in reporting -- am I correct?

Posted by: anon. 25 | Nov 18, 2015 12:06:57 PM

Law schools on large campuses might consider offering specialized law courses for those getting other majors, particularly business. They might even offer a minor in law. Why not a MBL (Master of Business Law) alongside an MBA?

And yes, I am aware of the downside of that for the legal profession. A businessman might end up knowing enough that he needs to consult a lawyer less. On the other hand, he'd also better know when he needs that expertise.

Posted by: Michael W. Perry | Nov 18, 2015 1:09:54 PM