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

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Update On 2018 Applicant Pool: Growth In Matriculants Likely Will Be Unbalanced Across Law Schools

Applicant Pool Appears to be Roughly 60,500-61,000  

In December 2017 and in February 2018, I posted blogs with projections for the 2018 application cycle based on the initial Current Volume Reports from the LSAC from early December and early February.  At that point I estimated an applicant pool of roughly 61,000.  I am writing now to update the applicant pool data and provide some further analysis regarding the composition of the applicant pool.

As of August 6, 2018, LSAC was reporting 60,679 applicants, up from 56,131 at this time last year – an increase of 4,548 or roughly 8.1%. This is the largest applicant volume since the 2011-2012 admissions cycle, which saw a total applicant pool of roughly 67,900.  Given that the final applicant count for 2017 ended at 56,400, one might expect the final applicant count for 2018 to edge up closer to 61,000. 

Fall 2018 First-Year Class May Be 40,000-41,000

If the number of applicants ends up at 60,800 and the percentage of applicants who become matriculants remains around 66% to 67% for the current admissions cycle (roughly the average over the last several years as shown in Table 1, below), the entering class in fall 2018 would be between 40,100 first-year students and 40,700 first-year students (up perhaps more than 8% from the 37,400 in fall 2017).  Given the strength of the applicant pool (discussed below) I think there is reason to believe the entering class will be closer to the high end of that range than the low end of that range.

Improvement in Strength of Applicant Pool

As I noted in my earlier posts, the most significant aspect of the applicant pool in this cycle is the tremendous increase in applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher.  From 2010 to 2017, while the overall applicant volume declined from roughly 87,900 to roughly 56,000, the “composition” of the entering class profile also shifted.  During this period, the percentage of applicants and matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher declined, with the percentage of such applicants dropping from roughly 14% to less than 12%, and the percentage of matriculants dropping from just over 18% to just over 15%.

TABLE 1 -- Percentage of Applicants and Matriculants with a High

LSAT Score of 165 or Higher from 2010-2017 Based on National Decision Profile Data

Admis. Cycle

Total Apps.

Apps. at 165 and Higher

% of Apps. at 165 or Higher

Total Matrics

Matrics as % of Apps.

Matrics at 165 and Higher

Matrics at 165 or Higher as % of Apps. at 165 or Higher

% of Matrics

at 165 or Higher

2009-10

87900

12177

13.9%

52500

59.7%

9477

77.8%

18.1%

2010-11

78500

11190

14.3%

48700

62%

8952

80%

18.4%

2011-12

67900

9226

13.6%

44500

65.5%

7571

82%

17%

2012-13

59400

7532

12.7%

39700

66.8%

6054

80.4%

15.2%

2013-14

55700

7577

13.6%

37900

68%

6189

81.7%

16.3%

2014-15

54500

6667

12.2%

37100

68.1%

5505

82.6%

14.8%

2015-16*

56500

7240

12.8%

37100

65.7%

5780

79.8%

15.5%

2016-17

56200

6546

11.6%

37400

66.5%

5688

86.9%

15.2%

*Please note that starting with the 2015-16 Admissions Cycle, LSAC started reporting full-year applicant volume and corresponding statistics rather than reporting merely fall applicant volume and corresponding statistics. (H/T Paul Campos)

The Current Volume Summary for this cycle continues to show a significant increase in the number of applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher compared to the five most recent admission cycles with 8,194 applicants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher (1,648 more this year compared to the 2016-17 admissions cycle (an increase of roughly 25%)).

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August 8, 2018 in Jerry Organ, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (7)

Monday, February 12, 2018

2018 Applicant Pool Projection Update: Good News For Highly-Ranked Law Schools

Applicant Pool Projection Remains at 61,000 to 63,000

Two months ago, I posted a blog with projections for the 2018 application cycle based on the initial Current Volume Report from the LSAC. I am writing now to update the applicant pool projection and provide some further analysis regarding the composition of the applicant pool.

The applicant pool remains up nearly 10% over last year as of late January. As of January 19, there were 29,287 applicants at a point in time when 48% of the final applicant count had been received last year. That extrapolates to approximately 61,000 applicants. As of February 3, there were 35,974 applicants at a point in time when 58% of the final applicant count had been received last year. That extrapolates to approximately 62,000 applicants. So, at the moment, we probably still can anticipate a total applicant pool for the year in a range from 61,000 to perhaps 63,000, depending upon exactly how things unfold over the coming months.

A total applicant pool of 61,000-63,000 would be the largest applicant volume since the 2011-2012 admissions cycle, which saw a total applicant pool of roughly 67,900. For the last four years, the applicant pool has hovered around 55,000-56,000. (Note that due to changes in LSAC reporting on total applicant pool starting in 2016, the comparisons with prior years are not exactly apples to apples.)

Fall 2018 First-Year Class May Be 40,000-41,000

If the percentage of applicants who become matriculants remains around 66% for the current admissions cycle (roughly the average over the last several years as show in Table 1), the entering class in fall 2018 would be between 40,000 and 41,000 first-year students (up roughly 10%).

Improvement in Strength of Applicant Pool (and Matriculants)

While the increasing size of the applicant pool is certainly good news for law schools, for highly-ranked law schools there is some even better news buried in the details of the Current Volume Report. From 2010 to 2017, while the overall applicant volume declined from roughly 87,900 to roughly 56,000, the “composition” of the entering class profile also shifted. During this period, the percentage of applicants and matriculants with a high LSAT of 165 or higher declined, with the percentage of applicants dropping from over 14% to less than 12%, and the percentage of matriculants dropping from just over 18% to just over 15%.

TABLE 1 -- Percentage of Applicants and Matriculants with a High LSAT Score of 165 or Higher from 2010-2017 Based on National Decision Profile Data

Admis. Cycle

Total Apps.

Apps. at 165 and Higher

% of Apps. at 165 or Higher

Total Matrics

Matrics as % of Apps.

Matrics at 165 and Higher

Matrics at 165 or Higher as % of Apps. at 165 or Higher

% of Matrics at 165 or Higher

2009-10

87900

12177

13.9%

52500

59.7%

9477

77.8%

18.1%

2010-11

78500

11190

14.3%

48700

62%

8952

80%

18.4%

2011-12

67900

9226

13.6%

44500

65.5%

7571

82%

17%

2012-13

59400

7532

12.7%

39700

66.8%

6054

80.4%

15.2%

2013-14

55700

7577

13.6%

37900

68%

6189

81.7%

16.3%

2014-15

54500

6667

12.2%

37100

68.1%

5505

82.6%

14.8%

2015-16

56500

7240

12.8%

37100

65.7%

5780

79.8%

15.5%

2016-17

56200

6546

11.6%

37400

66.5%

5688

86.9%

15.2%

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February 12, 2018 in Jerry Organ, Law School Rankings, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Updated Analysis Of Law School Attrition Data — 2018

In October 2015 and February 2016, I posted blogs discussing attrition rates between 2010 and 2014, and 2010 and 2015, respectively. With the release of the 2017 Standard 509 reports in December, I now have compiled attrition data from all of the fully-accredited ABA law schools outside of Puerto Rico for the last seven years, through 2016-17. I have calculated average attrition rates for the class as a whole and then broken out average attrition rates by law schools in different median LSAT categories – 160+, 155-159, 150-154 and <150. (Earlier this month, Brian Tamanaha noted that there are 14 law schools that have non-transfer attrition rates in the 2016-17 academic year in excess of 20%, the threshold set forth in Interpretation 501-3 which the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar adopted early in 2017.)

This blog reports that overall first-year non-transfer attrition increased each year until the 2016-17 academic year, going from 5.81% to 7.33% through 2015-16, before dropping back to 6.46% in 2016-17. This overall increase, however, results largely from increases in non-transfer attrition among schools with a median LSAT less than 150, as the non-transfer attrition rates for law schools with a median LSAT of 150 or greater have generally been in a downward trend over this period. Interestingly, one point reflected in this data is the inverse relationship between median LSAT category and attrition rates. “Academic attrition” rates increase significantly as median LSAT of law schools decreases; for four of the last five years, “other attrition” rates also increase as median LSAT decreases. 

The decline in non-transfer attrition in 2016-17 is noteworthy given that it is the first decline in non-transfer attrition in the last several years.  Notably, one significant contributor to the decline in non-transfer attrition in 2016-17 was the exclusion of Charlotte from the calculations given its closure.  (For example, had Charlotte not been included in the 2015-16 non-transfer attrition calculations, the overall non-transfer attrition rate for 2015-16 would have been 6.96% rather than 7.33%.)  That said, even taking into account the "Charlotte" factor, 2016-17 still shows the first decline in overall non-transfer attrition in the last several years.

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January 16, 2018 in Jerry Organ, Law School, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Far Fewer Law School Conditional Scholarship Programs In 2016-17 Than In 2011-12

This blog posting highlights the much smaller number of law schools with conditional scholarship programs in 2016-17 compared to 2010-11.  It also looks at the smaller number and smaller percentage of first-year students with conditional scholarships in 2016-17 compared with 2011-12, and the extent to which the number and percentage of rising second-year students whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated has changed since 2011-12.  Next, it analyzes both the prevalence of conditional scholarship programs among law schools across different rankings categories and the extent to which scholarship retention rates differ among law schools across different rankings categories.  In this regard, it notes both that there are almost no conditional scholarship programs among top-50 law schools as of 2016-17, and that the concentration of conditional scholarship programs in law schools ranked 101 and lower probably means a disproportionate number of women students and minority students are dealing with conditional scholarships. Finally, it looks at how the distribution of retention rates by decile has changed since 2011-12.

  1. Introduction

Several years ago, the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved revisions to Standard 509, requiring that law schools post a chart identifying the number of conditional scholarships given to incoming first years and the number of those scholarship recipients whose scholarships were reduced or eliminated at the end of the first year.  As a result, there is now a much greater universe of publicly available information about law school scholarship programs. In the summer of 2013, I posted to SSRN an article entitled Better Understanding the Scope of Conditional Scholarship Programs among American Law Schools, summarizing the first year of available data on conditional scholarship programs, covering the 2011-12 academic year.  Law schools have now published this data for six years, with data covering the 2016-17 academic year having just been released as of December 15.

  1. Number of Law Schools with Conditional Scholarship Programs Declines by 36.4%

As shown in Chart 1 below, excluding the three law schools in Puerto Rico, there were 140 fully-accredited ABA law schools with conditional scholarship programs in 2011-12. For the 2016-17 academic year, however, the number of fully-accredited ABA law schools with conditional scholarship programs had dropped to 89, a decline of over 36%.Chart 1 2017 Cond. Schol. Blog SECOND

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January 2, 2018 in Jerry Organ, Law School, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (6)

Monday, December 18, 2017

The 2017 Law School Transfer Market

This blog posting updates my blog postings of December 2014, December 2015, and March 2017 regarding what we know about the transfer market. With the release of the 2017 Standard 509 Reports, we know have four years of more detailed transfer data from which to glean insights about the transfer market among law schools.

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES OF TRANSFERS: 2011-2017

The number of transfers increased slightly to 1797 in 2017 from 1749 in 2016, still down from 1,979 in 2015, and from 2,187 in 2014 and 2,501 in 2013. The percentage of the previous fall’s entering class that engaged in the transfer market also increased only slightly to 4.8%, on the low end of where it has been since 2011.

In other words, there is no reason to believe the transfer market is “growing” as a general matter. It has been fairly consistently in the 4.7% to 5.8% range for the last six years. In fact, there might be a reason to believe the general transfer market is declining, given that roughly 200 of the transfers this year, more than 10% of all transfers, are from Charlotte, Whittier and Indiana Tech.   Excluding the transfers out from Charlotte, Whittier and Indiana Tech, the number of transfers likely would be below 1600, which would be less than 4.5%, the lowest level in the last several years.

 

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Number of Transfers

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

1797

Previous Year First Year Enrollment

47,600

43,200

39,800

38,000

37,100

37,100

%   of Previous First-Year Total

5.1%

5.8%

5.5%

5.2%

4.7%

4.8%

SOME LAW SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THE TRANSFER MARKET

The following two charts list the top 15 law schools participating in the transfer market in descending order in Summer 2015 (fall 2014 entering class), and Summer 2016 (fall 2015 entering class), and Summer 2017 (fall 2016 entering class). One chart is based on “numbers” of transfers and the other chart is based on the number of transfer students as a percentage of the prior year’s first year class.

Note that in these two charts, the “repeat players” are bolded – those schools in the top 15 for all three years are in black, those schools in the top 15 for two of the three years are in blue.   Ten of the top 15 have been on the list for the largest number of transfers all three years.  All of the top six law schools in 2016 for transfers in welcomed a smaller numbers of transfers in 2017, although George Washington saw the largest drop in its transfer class between 2016 and 2017, with a decline of roughly 40 from where it had been the two previous years. Two of the three law schools that are new to the list, Charleston and Lincoln Memorial, took significant numbers of transfers from Charlotte.

Largest Law Schools by Number of Transfers from 2015-2017

School

Number in 2015

 

Number in 2016

 

Number in 2017

Georgetown

110

Georgetown

111

Georgetown

105

George Wash.

109

George Wash

106

George Wash

67

Arizona St.

65

Arizona St.

66

Charleston

61

Harvard

55

Columbia

50

NYU

58

Emory

51

Emory

49

Arizona St.

56

NYU

51

UCLA

43

Columbia

46

Cal. Berkeley

49

Loyola Marymount

43

SMU

42

Rutgers

45

NYU

43

Emory

41

Columbia

44

Florida

36

Loyola Marymount

41

Miami

44

Houston

36

Harvard

40

UCLA

43

Harvard

35

UCLA

36

Texas

37

Cal. Berkeley

33

Cal. Berkeley

33

American

33

Miami

31

Lincoln Memorial

33

Florida St.

32

American

30

Miami

33

Minnesota

31

Florida St.

30

Florida

31

 

799

 

741

 

723

 

0.404

 

0.423

 

0.402

In terms of law schools with the highest percentage of transfers in as a percentage of their previous year's first-year class,  only four law schools have been on the list each of the last three years – Arizona State, Emory, Georgetown and George Washington.

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December 18, 2017 in Jerry Organ, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Initial Fall 2018 Enrollment Projections Reflect Increases In Applicant Volume And Strength

Applicant Pool Projection – 61,000 to 63,000

With the first release of this admission cycle’s Current Volume Summary from the LSAC, we have the opportunity to compare the current applicant cycle data with that in prior years.

The good news reported by LSAC and posted here on TaxProf Blog by Paul Caron yesterday is that applicant volume is 15,083, up over 14% compared to this point in the cycle last year. The Current Volume Summary states that at this point in the cycle last year, applicants represented roughly 24% of the final applicant pool. (In past years, the applicant volume in the first Current Volume Summary has averaged roughly one-quarter of the total applicant volume for the given admissions cycle.) This means that, at the moment, as shown in the chart below, we can anticipate a total applicant pool for the year in a range from 61,000 to perhaps 63,000, depending upon exactly how things unfold over the coming months. Given that this is only the first of several data points, there remains a large margin of error. By mid-January, after a few more current volume reports, and with a larger percentage of the applicants accounted for, one can have a little more confidence in the estimate for total applicant volume.

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December 7, 2017 in Jerry Organ, Legal Education | Permalink | Comments (0)