TaxProf Blog

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Return On Investment: The Core Challenge For Legal Education As 100 Law Schools Fail Department Of Education's Debt-To-Earnings Standard

Martin Pritikin (Dean, Concord), Return on Investment: The Core Challenge for Legal Education and the Legal Profession:

The legal community is facing a myriad of serious challenges ― historically low law school enrollments and bar passage rates, exploding tuition costs and associated student debt and a stagnant job market ― that, if not addressed, will put it in peril. ...

The big problem is return on educational investment, as those who would most logically serve the middle market can ill afford to do so. Annual tuition is about $50,000 at top-tier private law schools, where many graduates land $180,000 starting salaries. But the tuition is roughly the same at so-called “fourth-tier” law schools, where those lucky enough to secure employment typically make between $60,000 and $80,000. There’s a name for this economic model: it’s called broken.

Consider this: of the 205 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association, 199 are exempt from Department of Education requirements to report graduates’ debt-to-earnings ratios. Why? Because they operate as not-for-profits. As reported by the ABA Journal on January 11, 2017, of the six for-profit schools that recently reported their data for the first time, two failed outright and three others were found to be in the “zone,” that is, at risk of failing. Yet, based on available data, if the not-for-profits were subject to the same debt-to-earnings test, it appears at least half of them ― 100 schools ― would have failed as well. ...

Unfortunately, the odds of the necessary change happening from within are small. Tenured faculty are not going to willingly forego their protections, and the ABA requires faculty tenure as a condition of accreditation. Plus, until the ABA removes its bar to accreditation of online law schools, expensive buildings and grounds―the other single biggest item in most law schools’ budgets―will continue to be the norm. Compounding this is the fact that most states’ boards of bar examiners allow only graduates of (costlier) ABA law school to sit for their bar exam immediately upon graduation.

Daunting as all this may seem, instead of raising the white flag, let me raise some possible practical solutions. Ironically, it is practicing attorneys who may be in the best position to pressure their law schools, state bars, the ABA, and others to make meaningful reforms that help both law school graduates and those they would serve. For example, they can: ...

Legal Education | Permalink


Recent history demonstrates that deans/administrators will attack whatever "standard" they are failing (like bar exams), writing a joint letter requesting that said standard be lowered because of some cliche (access to justice, social justice, etc.) and they will take no responsibility for their failures in the process...

Posted by: Anon | Sep 9, 2017 12:59:52 PM