Thursday, June 21, 2012
A few days ago, I asked whether some law schools are moral dystopias. (here) One of my major problems with many law schools' practices is that they are charging average students more tuition to fund merit scholarships for students with high indicators.
Smart Money recently dealt with this issue. They state, "Now for the bad news: Only students with the best grades and test scores qualify. That's because by admitting brighter students, schools can raise their rankings, says Jerry Organ, a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis." They continue, "Law school scholarship funding doesn't usually come from the schools' endowments, but rather through so-called tuition discounting, he says. That's when schools raise overall tuition so that in effect, those with lower grades can subsidize the bill for the brightest students. Those lower-performing students also have a harder time paying off the tuition debt they incur because they're less likely to get the high-paying positions that often go to the students with high grades, says Kyle McEntee, executive director at Law School Transparency, a nonprofit legal education policy organization."
Finally, "experts say it's tougher to hold onto merit-based scholarships in law school than in undergraduate programs. Organ says he reviewed 150 law schools offering merit scholarships and found that 80% of them renew scholarships for the students who rank somewhere between the top 15% and 30% of their class. But the initial scholarship they award for the incoming class is given out to as many as the top 50% of students. In law school, grades are distributed on a curve. Schools ration the number of As and Bs that they dole out each semester. The result? It's guaranteed that a certain number of students at those schools will lose their scholarships, says Organ."
In other words, many law schools raise their tuition so that they can use merit scholarships to attract students with high indicators (G.P.A.s and LSAT scores). They do this so they can move up in the U.S. News Rankings. (These indicators constitute 22.5% of the total score.) However, as I wrote last week (here), U.S. News is worthless for helping law students choose law schools.
Does this sound like a fair practice to you? Wouldn't it be better to not have merit scholarships coming from tuition and charging lower tuition to everyone? Enough of the U.S. News obsession. It is destroying legal education.