National Law Journal, Will Law Schools’ LL.M Programs Suffer from Trump’s ‘America First’ Stance?:
Law school administrators say concerns are growing from foreign students about how the myriad immigration and travel policies emerging from Washington could impact their plans to obtain LL.M degrees in the United States.
The advanced law degree programs bring in about $350 million annually to the more than 100 U.S. law schools that offer them, with around 10,000 foreign students coming here each year to pursue an LL.M.
LL.M faculty are worried that those lucrative programs could lose their luster should the United States gain a reputation as unwelcoming to foreigners, and they say some LL.M applicants are grappling with whether they want to come to such a place.
For now, however, those concerns don’t yet seem to have resulted in decreased interest: LL.M applications are up this year at many schools. ...
If, because of more restrictive policies against foreigners trying to enter the United States, LL.M. students decide to attend competing programs in the United Kingdom or Australia, it could prove disastrous to many law schools here, which rely more heavily than ever on tuition revenue from foreign students enrolled in LL.M programs.
The thousands of foreign LL.M students coming each year to the United States adds $348 million annually to law school coffers, assuming those students pay the average law school tuition rate of $35,312. (Most foreign LL.M students pay full tuition and don’t have access to the generous scholarships available to domestic students, and many of the largest LL.M programs charge closer to $60,000 than the average).
“Up until now, the U.S. has been the diamond standard for education,” said William Byrnes, associate dean for special projects at Texas A&M University School of Law and the chair-elect of the Association of American Law School’s section of graduate programs for non-U.S. lawyers. “This is so important to us from an income point of view.” ...
[A]n LL.M from a U.S. law school is viewed internationally as a sterling credential that can boost the career prospects of foreign lawyers in their home countries, while a handful of jurisdictions allow LL.M graduates to sit for their bar exams.
The good news for legal educators is that the number of individuals applying to LL.M programs in the United States was either steady or up from a year ago at nearly a dozen law schools queried last week. At the same time, however, LL.M faculty said they are watching closely to see if a higher-than-normal percentage of admitted foreign students decide not to attend this fall after all in light of uncertainty and concern over shifting travel and immigration policies in the United States. ...
An estimated 12,709 foreign students came to study law in 2016, up 8.3 percent from the previous year, according to the Open Doors Report. The American Bar Association puts the number of LL.M students in 2016 at 9,866. That includes some U.S. students, though most are foreign. The discrepancy between the ABA and Open Doors numbers is likely due to Open Doors also counting foreign students in J.D. or undergraduate law programs.
Relatively few LL.M students come from the seven Muslim-majority nations named in Trump’s initial travel ban in January. Countries supplying the most LL.M students are China, Brazil, Japan, France, Italy, India, Canada and Saudi Arabia. The largest LL.M programs typically have 10 or fewer students from the countries named in the ban, and many schools reported again receiving a small number of applications from those places this year.
The Saudi Arabian government is already discussing tightening restrictions to its multibillion-dollar King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which sends hundreds of thousands of Saudi students to colleges and universities abroad annually, noted Byrnes, at Texas A&M.
Although Saudi Arabia was not on Trump’s banned list, curtailing those scholarships would certainly hurt U.S. law schools.
“Anything that’s done at the national level that makes the United States seem less welcoming is not positive for U.S. educational institutions,” said Martin Camp, assistant dean for graduate and international programs at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, which saw LL.M applications increase 20 percent this year. “All of us are very much hoping that the tone from our government will continue to be welcoming to foreigners who want to come here to study.”
For now, schools are doing what they can to counteract any negative perceptions of the United States and reassure LL.M applicants with more robust outreach. ...
It is possible that any impact on U.S. LL.M programs would not materialize until the fall of 2018. Most elite law schools had application deadlines in December and early January, before Trump even took office. Plenty of applicants had already made firm plans to complete an LL.M here before Trump signed the travel ban executive order.