Friday, September 8, 2017
Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State) & Andrew Merritt, Agreements to Improve Student Aid: An Antitrust Perspective, 67 J. Legal Educ. ___ (2017):
Law schools tie much of their scholarship money to LSAT scores and undergraduate grades. By awarding substantial discounts to students with above-median indicators, schools attempt to climb the U.S. News ranking ladder. This practice, as many educators recognize, reduces access to legal education for low-income and minority students. As a result, many schools would like to shift at least some of their scholarship funds to need-based awards. Schools, however, struggle to make that change unilaterally; they worry about losing ground in the rankings race.
Could law schools act collectively to reform their scholarship practices? Could the ABA reshape those practices by adopting an accreditation standard that limits the award of “merit” based aid?
Most commentators have assumed that the answer to these questions is “no” because agreements restricting scholarships would violate the antitrust laws. As we show in this article, however, law schools have at least three routes for pursuing these agreements without risking antitrust liability. If we are serious about promoting access to legal education, we should explore these options for encouraging need-based aid.