Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Costs of Requiring 15 Credit Hours of Experiential Classes

One of the criticisms of the proposal to require 15 credit hours of experiential courses in the second and third years of law school is that it will cost too much. Comments of Professor Robert Kuehn to the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education concerning the costs of clinical education are relevant to this discussion. (here)

He declared:

"I was informed that one Task Force member at the August hearing opined through a question that in some way law clinic courses were the major factor in the high cost of law school tuition. Such claims unfortunately overlook the very significant effects on tuition from rising faculty salaries, lower teaching loads, student subsidization of faculty scholarship, aggressive merit-based approaches to financial aid to influence U.S. News rankings, the costs of elaborate new law buildings, increases in the number of law school administrators, and payments from law schools to their universities. Although the causes for the rise in tuition are numerous (and would benefit from an in depth study by the ABA), these other operational costs likely dwarf the expenses of providing students with clinical education courses."

He continued:

"Moreover, the claim that the enhanced availability of law clinic courses over the past few decades is why students are paying more in tuition is simply not true, as I empirically demonstrate in my recent article ‘Pricing Clinical Legal Education’. . . Reviewing tuition, curricular and enrollment data reported to the ABA by all law schools, I found that there is: no effect on the tuition and fees students pay from requiring or guaranteeing every student a law clinic or externship experience; no difference in tuition between schools that already have sufficient capacity to provide a clinical experience to each student and those that do not; and no tuition growth associated with the increased availability of law clinics for students or increased participation of students in law clinics. I conclude that expanding clinical opportunities or providing a clinical experience to every law student has not cost, and need not cost, students more in tuition and is more a question of the will of the faculty than cost."

Strong words. However, strong words are needed to overcome the claims that the 15 credit hour proposal will greatly increase the costs of law school.

(Scott Fruehwald)


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