Paul L. Caron

Friday, April 3, 2015

Grant Funded Legal Research

Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall), Grant Funded Research:

Paul Campos of the University of Colorado is once again confused by my research with Frank McIntyre.  This time, the source of Professor Campos’s confusion is not present value calculations, but rather grant funding.

The Economic Value of a Law Degree was not funded through grants.  No disclosure of grant funding appears in that article because there was no funding to disclose.

Two follow up studies, Timing Law School and an upcoming study about differences in the law earnings premium by college major, race and gender, are funded through grants from Access Group, Inc., a non-profit that provides financial education to students and schools and aims to promote broad access to education, and the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), which is an important provider of data and research about law schools (see here and here). ...

I do think that external funding of research can potentially raise a number of issues.  I’ve alluded to these in my research on Risk Based Student Loans and Mortgage Securitization. Scholars who have written about these issues thoughtfully include Derek Bok, Luigi Zingales (see the chapter on “The Responsibilities of the Intellectuals”), and several researchers affiliated with the Safra Center at Harvard.  In my and Frank’s case, the grants simply provided us with resources to do better and faster what we would have liked to do anyway, and perhaps moved certain projects higher up on our list of priorities.

I see a lot of value in universities having the necessary resources internally to support research on topics that are not necessarily amendable to external grant funding.  If Professor Campos believes that law schools should support that kind of research, and charge tuition levels that are necessary to support it, then we agree. 

If Professor Campos or anyone else has a substantive critique of our methods or our data, we welcome constructive feedback.  Indeed, substantive critiques of the working paper version of the Economic Value of a Law Degree improved the published study and helped inspire Timing Law School and our upcoming follow-up.

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“Two professors at Seton Hall University, Frank Pasquale and Michael Simkovic, have been tracking studies released by Lumina-funded think tanks that criticize federal student lending, which is Sallie Mae’s direct competitor. For example, Lumina has given the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank that focuses on issues ranging from national security to technology, nearly $3 million since 2008… “It’s hard to make sense of a lot of what Lumina is advocating on student loans unless you think of how it would benefit Sallie Mae,” says Michael Simkovic, an associate professor at Seton Hall… There is “no connection at all” between Sallie Mae and The New America Foundation, said Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation, who said two of the three studies that criticized federal student loans were funded exclusively by the Gates Foundation.”

“A number of recent Brookings studies have been singled out for criticism by academics and others… One study, released in June, analyzed Federal Reserve Board data that tracks student debt and income levels in young households to conclude that typical student borrowers were no worse off now than they were a decade ago and that reports of a student debt crisis may be overblown. The study contradicted arguments from critics of the for-profit student-loan industry… Michael Simkovic, a visiting associate professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an expert on lending issues, said that if Brookings’s reports on student debt were to dictate policy, they would “boost the profits of the student lenders like Sallie Mae.” Critics pointed to a potential tie between Brookings and the lending industry: $1.9 million in donations since 2009 from the Lumina Foundation… Lumina did not underwrite the June study, according to co-authors Matthew M. Chingos and Beth Akers…. Lumina’s director of strategy, Zakiya Smith, said suggestions of meddling were “mind-boggling”.”

“Paul Campos of the University of Colorado is once again confused by my research with Frank McIntyre. This time, the source of Professor Campos’s confusion is not present value calculations, but rather grant funding.”

Presented without comment.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 3, 2015 10:45:29 AM

In my own department, economics, universities provide research funding via our salaries, but also summer extra pay which is discretionary based on whether the dean thinks our research is good enough. Is the same true in law schools? If so, then Campos should also be calling on professors to reveal that source of funding.

Posted by: Eric Rasmusen | Apr 3, 2015 7:58:17 AM