Wednesday, May 29, 2013
There has been a bit of a flutter recently regarding law school admissions in light of data from the LSAC Current Volume Summary for May 17, 2013, suggesting that the size of the applicant pool will be larger than earlier projections had suggested. It appears that a larger number of applicants are showing up later in the application cycle than last year. This has generated blog postings on TaxProf Blog, The Faculty Lounge and Lawyers, Guns & Money. While I will be posting my projections for the fall 2013 entering class on this blog in the next couple of days, I first wanted to recap (to the extent available data allows) the situation in which law schools have found themselves as of the fall 2012 entering class.
In November, I posted a preliminary, unofficial comparison of enrollment data for 140 law schools and profile data for 128 law schools that had such information posted on their websites as of November 15, 2012. Now, several months later, I have an updated analysis based on enrollment data from 188 law schools and profile data from 173 law schools that had published on their websites sufficient profile data on which to make meaningful year-to-year comparisons as of May 28, 2013. Please note that this data remains unofficial, having been taken from law school websites, not from any ABA publication. When the ABA posts the digital version of the Official Guide in the coming weeks, I will be able to run an official comparison across all schools.
DECLINING ENROLLMENT – Between 2010 and 2012, 147 of the 188 law schools with available enrollment information (roughly 78%) had a decline in enrollment of at least 5%. Of these 147 law schools down at least 5% in enrollment, nearly half – 73 --- were down 20% or more:
-52 of the 188 law schools with available enrollment information (nearly 39%) had a decline in enrollment of between 20% and 30%.
-21 of the 188 law schools with available enrollment information (roughly 11%) had a decline in enrollment of 30% or more, with 11 seeing a decline in enrollment between 30% and 40% and 10 seeing a decline in enrollment of more than 40%.
Notably, only 16 schools declined between 2% and 5%, only 16 schools were flat (a change between -2% and +2%) and only 9 schools had an increase in enrollment of at least 2%. Across these 188 schools, first-year enrollment declined from 47854 in 2010, to 44141 in 2011, to 40297 in 2012, an overall decline of 7557 or 15.8% between 2010 and 2012.
DECLINING PROFILES -- Among the 173 law schools with complete profile information available for their fall 2012 entering first-year class, the average LSAT profile has declined over the last two years, from a 160.6/158.3/155.4 to 159.8/157.2/153.8. The average GPA profile also has declined, from a 3.64/3.43/3.15 to 3.62/3.40/3.13. In addition, the number of law schools with a median LSAT in the 140s has more than doubled from 9 to 19 between 2010 and 2012.
DECLINING ENROLLMENT WITH DECLINING PROFILES – Perhaps most significantly, of the 73 law schools with declines in enrollment of 20% or more, 52 of those schools also saw a decline in their LSAT/GPA profiles between 2010 and 2012. That means roughly 30% of law schools with available enrollment and profile information for 2012 (52/173) had declines in enrollment of 20% or more and saw their LSAT/GPA profile decline. Notably, seven of these 52 law schools were in the 2012 USNews top-50, 13 were ranked between 51-100, 13 were ranked between 101-145 and 19 were in the alphabetical listing of schools. The declining interest in law school, therefore, is impacting law schools across the rankings, but is more dramatically impacting alphabetical schools than top-ranked schools.
As noted above, I am planning on posting a projection on fall 2013 first-year enrollment in the coming days. I also am planning on posting an analysis of scholarship retention information across all law schools sometime in the coming days.