Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 15, 2016

165 Law Schools Have Reduced The Size Of Their 1L Classes Since 2011, 53 By 33% Or More

ABA Section On Legal Education (2016)Following up on my last post, ABA Releases 2016 Standard 509 Information Reports For All 204 Law Schools: J.D. Enrollment Fell 2.6%, Non-J.D. Enrollment Increased 4.5%: Keith Lee mines the 2011-2016 1L matriculant data and includes great charts, sorted alphabetically and by percentage changes in 2016 from 2011 and 2015.

165 schools decreased the size of their 1L classes from 2011 to 2016, including 53 by 33% or more. 12 law schools had decreases of at least 50%:

-74.0 % Appalachian
-68.6% Penn State
-68.2% Arizona Summit
-65.0% Florida Coastal
-64.3% Thomas Cooley
-56.3% Pontifical Catholic
-55.3% New England
-54.4% Regent
-52.8% Valparaiso
-51.9% Touro
-51.8% Whittier
-51.4% New Hampshire

Legal Education | Permalink


@PubliusNovus I think you're making this more complicated than it need be. The ABA is the entity to which the DOE delegated the authority to accredit law schools in the U.S. The ABA has a standard, 501(b), that says law schools "shall not admit an applicant who does not appear capable of satisfactorily completing
its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar." Many people, including apparently Mr./Mrs. Greeley, believe that these lower-tier law schools are in violation of standard 501(b) and so should be unaccredited. If they want to continue to operate as unaccredited institutions under whatever agreements they have with the states in which they are located, and under whatever free market principles you seem to be advocating, then that's fine. But the ABA should not continue to accredit them. That's the only point.

Posted by: Dorkus Maximus | Dec 19, 2016 6:38:00 AM

Mr. Greeley: You ask “why should the ABA sit by and allow them to continue to bilk poorly informed students for a few more years to keep their doors open and jobs intact instead of proactively shutting them down?” Perhaps because: 1) the law schools in the U.S. are operating under a free-enterprise system; 2) the ABA’s charter permits it to accredit law schools, but does not extend to determining whether any particular law school makes economic sense within a free-enterprise system; 3) the law generally will protect drunken sailors and widows from bad financial decisions, but not presumably highly educated or at least functionally literate law school applicants; and 4) it is the prerogative of the several states to determine whether any particular enterprise—including law schools—should be permitted to operate in that state’s free-enterprise system.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Dec 16, 2016 8:52:05 AM

Lee's analysis is wrong regarding Penn State's enrollment figures. Penn State's enrollment has been increasing, not decreasing. It appears Lee overlooked the fact that Penn State's law school split into two law schools a couple of years ago. Lee compared the enrollment data of the two law schools when they were combined to the current enrollment data of only Dickinson, the smaller of the two Penn State law schools after the split. Penn State Law's enrollment figures have been increasing so the enrollment of the two law schools combined is actually higher now than it was in 2011 or 2015.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 16, 2016 7:48:47 AM

That list looks like a pretty good starting point for the ABA as it begins culling these predatory fourth-tier diploma mills. Given these enrollment declines, it looks like simple economics will eventually take care of these law schools anyway, but why should the ABA sit by and allow them to continue to bilk poorly informed students for a few more years to keep their doors open and jobs intact instead of proactively shutting them down?

Posted by: Greeley | Dec 16, 2016 5:17:36 AM