May 6, 2011
Gaming Scholarships in the Legal Academy: How Many 1Ls Lose Their Merit Scholarships Because They Don't Make the Grade?
And then end up paying full tuition in their second and third years? No one really knows writes David Segal in his buzz-creating recent New York Times article:
Nobody knows exactly how many law school students nationwide lose scholarships each year — no oversight body tallies that figure — but what’s clear is that American law schools have quietly gone on a giveaway binge in the last decade. In 2009, the most recent year for which the American Bar Association has data, 38,000 of 145,000 law school students — more than one in four — were on merit scholarships. The total tab for all schools in all three years: more than $500 million.
It’s a huge sum, particularly when you realize that merit scholarships were exceptionally rare at law schools a mere generation ago. But given that many students lose their grants after the first year, the question is this: What exactly are law schools buying with all of that money?
What's going on?
Why would a school offer more scholarships than it planned to renew?
The short answer is this: to build the best class that money can buy, and with it, prestige. But these grant programs often succeed at the expense of students, who in many cases figure out the perils of the merit scholarship game far too late.
In other words, law school students end up with huge debts just for the sake of law schools attempts to improve their US News rankings. For much more, see Segal's Law Students Lose the Grant Game as Schools Win.
US News Responds. Bob Morse, US News rankings guru, take on this issue:
Law schools need to take far more direct responsibility for their policies instead of citing the oft-repeated claims that they are forced into these actions solely because U.S. News exerts so much power over law school behavior.
OK Bob, just keep compiling your rankings without auditing the data supplied by the legal academy. [JH]