Thursday, July 15, 2010

Even U.S. News Suggests Law School Tuition Is Getting Ridiculous

Over the past few days we've seen an outpouring of support for the proposition that people should go to law school. It's clear that there are many students in law school or heading to law school who believe that they've made the right decision (and it is the right decision, for some people). Moreover, we've learned that a lot of people seem to think that ATL — or, more specifically, me — have some kind of vested interest in crushing dreams and making law students feel bad.

Duly noted. I probably should stick my vuvuzela up my butt and let you guys enjoy the excitement of starting out on a new career.

But as Gandalf once said: "I'm not trying to rob you, I'm trying to help you."

So fine, don't take my word for it. Maybe you'll listen to your friend, your God, the U.S. News & World Report

From a U.S. News article yesterday:

Demand for a legal education remains high, despite odds stacking against it.

Tuition has risen for the 2010-2011 school year at law schools across the country, even as industry jobs disappear by the month. The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows 3,900 jobs were cut from the legal sector in June alone, capping off a year of 22,200 job losses…

With demand and cost climbing higher and job prospects diminishing, what's happening to the value of a legal education? The answer is questionable, at least for the J.D. credential itself, says Bill Henderson, law professor at the Indiana University—Bloomington's Maurer School of Law.

You know, when U.S. News — a mainstream magazine that makes money off of people's fascination with law schools — is pushing out articles questioning the value proposition of going to law school, you've got to stand up and take notice.

The information is out there, people. But prospective law students simply refuse to listen:

California-based law school admissions consultant Ann Levine says that dimming job prospects and increasingly high tuition have yet to deter her nationwide client pool from seeking elite placements.

"I had thought people would be more concerned about scholarships and willing to let go of ranking a little bit; I was wrong," says Levine. "Still, people want to generally go to the best law school they can get into, regardless of costs."…

While "everyone talks about the cost of tuition," Levine says, "it's actually not going to impact demand greatly because I think people see it as somewhat inevitable and beyond their control."

And it's not going to change. Administrators running these law schools have no incentive to control tuition costs:

In Arizona, where tuition increased at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and University of Arizona Law School's James E. Rogers College of Law, outgoing president of the Arizona Board of Regents Ernest Calderón said graduate schools shoulder more of the budget burden.

"Certainly for the professions that tend to have a significant financial reward on the back end, we believe that students can pay a higher rate — whatever the market will allow for professional and graduate school," Calderón said. "Then, if they have debt, they can retire that."

Employment statistics are not taken into serious consideration, Calderón adds, because his board is not supplied with raw data.

Employment statistics are not taken into serious consideration. The people who control law school tuition openly admit that it has become totally detached from what graduating attorneys can actually expect to earn.

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