New York Times DealBook: Law School Becomes Buyers’ Market as Competition for Best Students Increases, by Elizabeth Olson:
Summer was waning and students were already packing for the fall semester, but Prof. Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean of the Northwestern University School of Law, was still fielding phone calls from incoming students seeking to bargain down the tuition at the elite school.
“It’s insane,” Professor Rodriguez said. “We’re in hand-to-hand combat with other schools.”
In the new topsy-turvy law school world, students are increasingly in control as nearly all of the 204 accredited law schools battle for the students with the best academic credentials. Gone are the days when legal educators bestowed admittance and college graduates gratefully accepted, certain that they were on the path to a highly paid, respectable career.
Now, financially wobbly law schools are facing plunging enrollment, strenuous resistance to five-figure student debt and the lack of job guarantees — not to mention the need to balance their battered budgets. To entice new students, some middle-tier schools [Arizona, Penn State, Roger WIlliams, Wayne State] have reduced tuition. ...
Once seen as cash generators, many university-affiliated law schools now lean on their parent institutions to survive a rough period. ...
Law school enrollment has been tumbling because the economic recession has reduced the number of legal jobs. In the economic fallout, law firms began to cut positions and have not restored them.
In New York, Albany Law School has cut faculty members — who had been sacrosanct at most law schools — in the face of a 34 percent decline in enrollment in its entering class this year, to 123 from 187 first-year students a year ago.
The number of first-year law school students fell 11 percent in the fall of 2013 from the fall of 2012, part of a 24 percent decline in just three years, according to the ABA. The incoming class in 2013 stood at 39,675 students, the smallest first-year class since the 1970s, when law school enrollment began to rise substantially. About two-thirds, or 135, of the association’s accredited law schools, registered a drop in first-year enrollment that year — and little has changed this fall.
Nine months after graduating, only 57 percent of the 2013 graduates had full-time jobs that required passing the bar, according to the association. Law schools are left in the unenviable position of trying to allay students’ fears that they will not be able to find a job that pays enough to repay $150,000 to $200,000 in education loans.