Friday, August 2, 2013

ABA Task Force Recognizes Unfairness of Law School Scholarship/Tuition Model

One of the most important parts of the Working Paper of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education is the following:

"Law school education is funded through a complex system of tuition, discounting, and loans. Schools announce standard tuition rates, and then chase students with high LSAT scores by offering substantial discounts without much regard to financial need. Other students receive little if any benefit from discounting and must rely mainly on borrowing to finance their education. The net result is that students whose credentials (and likely job prospects) are the weakest incur large debt to sustain the school budget and enable higher-credentialed students to attend at little cost. These practices drive up both tuition and debt, and they are in need of serious re-engineering."

The Paper concludes "The Task Force believes that the financing mechanisms for law school education and the pricing practices they facilitate must change, and that continued public confidence in the system of legal education is dependent on that change."

This author agrees for two reasons.  First, the scholarship/tuition model that many law schools are using is unfair.  It requires that those students who are least able to pay for law school are burdened with paying even more to attract students with high indicators.  While a large part of this problem is caused by the U.S. News rankings, it is law schools that must end this practice.

Second, this practice is having a negative effect on the provision of legal services to the public.  Because students are burdened with law school debt, most of them are unable to take jobs in rural areas, which greatly need attorneys, or provide legal services to the poor.

In sum, law schools need to end this law school financing model and provide a fairer method of charging tuition and bestowing scholarships.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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