Tuesday, March 18, 2014

PROJECTIONS FOR LAW SCHOOL ENROLLMENT FOR FALL 2014

 

This is the first part of a likely two-part posting regarding projections for Fall 2014 first-year enrollment. In this posting I estimate the likely total applicant pool, the likely number of admitted applicants, and the likely number of matriculants for Fall 2014.  In the coming weeks, I hope to post a second part, in which I analyze how the nature of the applicant pool is likely to impact the first-year enrollment and entering class profiles across law schools.

 

APPLICANTS

Reviewing the 2013 Cycle -- For the three-year period from 2010-2012, the number of applicants in each admissions cycle represented an average of 92.9% of the tests administered in June/October of the preceding year.  There were 63,003 June/October test-takers in 2012.  I noted in November 2012 that if the 2012-13 admissions cycle resulted in 92.9% of June/October test-takers turning into applicants, law schools could anticipate there being roughly 58,530 applicants to law schools for fall 2013.

 

In January 2013, that estimate seemed like it might be high, as LSAC projections were running more in the 53,000 to 54,000 range. 

 

Current Volume Summary

Applicants

% of Cycle

Projected Total Applicant Pool

Estimate Based on 92.9% of June/October 2012 Test Takers

 

58,530

Jan. 25, 2013

30,098

56%

53,750

Mar. 8, 2013

46,587

84%

55,460

May 17, 2013

55,764

95%

58,700

End of Cycle

 

 

59,426

 

By May 17, 2013, however, the Current Volume Summary already showed 55,764 applicants, at a time in the cycle that represented 95% of the preliminary final applicant count in the previous year.  That meant there had been an increase in applicants in March, April and May 2013 compared to the same period the previous year.  If the May 17 count truly represented 95% of likely applicants, we could have expected roughly 58,700 applicants for fall 2013.  As it turns out, however, late applications continued to come in at numbers higher than in the previous year, such that the final applicant count ended at 59,426, nearly 4,000 more than was projected as of March 8, and representing 94.3% of the total June/October 2012 test takers.

 

Thoughts on the 2014 Cycle Applicants are down again according to the LSAC Current Volume Summary.  Al Brophy has been tracking the Current Volume Summary over at The Faculty Lounge.  He has noted the following: The December 6, 2013 Current Volume Summary showed 14,171 applicants at a point in time that represented 28% of the cycle last year.  That projected to a total applicant pool of 50,611.  The January 31 Current Volume Summary showed 29,638 applicants at a point in time that represented 58% of the cycle last year.  That projected to a total applicant pool of 51,110.  The March 7 Current Volume Summary shows 42,068 applicants at a point in time that represented 79% of the cycle last year.  That projects to a total applicant pool of 53,250.  Over the course of three months, therefore, the projection for the applicant pool increased by over 2,500.

 

If you use the June/October test-takers formula described above, there were 23,997 June 2013 test-takers and 33,673 October 2013 test-takers, for a total of 57,670.  The four-year average for the applicant pool as a percentage of June/October test-takers is 93.2%.  If the fall 2014 applicant pool ends up being 93.2% of June/October 2013 test-takers, that would project to a total applicant pool of 53,748 applicants.  In three of the last four years, however, the actual percentages have been 94.2%, 94.3% and 94.5%.  If the fall 2014 applicant pool ends up being 94.3% of June/October 2013 test-takers, that would project to a total applicant pool of 54,383.

 

Accordingly, I think one conservatively could estimate that the final applicant pool will be roughly 54,000.  This would reflect a decrease in applicants of roughly 9% from the total applicant pool of 59,400 for fall 2013.  

 

On the other hand, however, the final applicant pool in 2013 grew by nearly 13,000 after March 8, 2013, resulting in a final applicant pool with 4,000 more applicants than had been projected as of March 8, 2013.  If the pool of applicants grows by 13,000 after March 7, 2014 this year, that would give us roughly 55,000 applicants, a decline of roughly 7.4% from the 2013 total.  If the pool of applicants grows by 4,000 more applicants than had been projected as of March 7, 2014, that would give us roughly 57,000 applicants, a decline of roughly 4% from the 2013 total.  (But that would mean 15,000 additional applicants after March 7, 2,000 more than in 2013, which seems unlikely at the moment.)

 

Current Volume Summary

Applicants

% of Cycle

Projected Total Applicant Pool

Dec. 6, 2013

14,171

28%

50,611

Jan. 31, 2014

29,638

58%

51,110

March 7, 2014

42,068

79%

52,250

Estimate Based on 93.2% to 94.3% of June/Oct. 2013 Test-Takers

 

53,700–54,400

Estimate Based on Growth of 13,000 Applicants after March 7, 2014 (2013 Growth)

 

55,000

 

Are we more likely to end up in the 54,000 range or the 55,000 range?   There has been steady growth in the projection for total applicants since December.  There was a late “surge” of applications last year after March 8.  Will we see a similar surge this year?  LSAC recently released the February 2014 test takers noting an increase by 1.1% over February 2013 test takers, from 19,246 to 19,499.  Notably, this includes those in Puerto Rico who took the new Spanish LSAT.  If the Spanish LSAT takers are excluded, the total February 2013 test takers would be 19,085, a decrease of 1.1% from February 2013.  In either event, it is the smallest decline (or the first increase) year-over-year in test takers in 14 test administrations dating back to October 2010.  That suggests to me that we are more likely to see continued growth in applicants in the coming months, somewhat comparable to what happened in 2013, pushing us more toward 55,000 applicants (or slightly higher) when all is said and done.

 

ADMITTED APPLICANTS – Notably, the LSAC Volume Summary shows that from 2003-2011, law schools never admitted fewer than 55,500 applicants, but also never admitted more than 71% of applicants.  For 2012, however, law schools admitted only 50,600 applicants out of 67,900.  This was the smallest number admitted in the previous decade, but also the highest percentage admitted at 74.5%.  For 2013, law schools only 45,700 applicants out of 59,400 applicants – an admit rate of 76.9% -- once again generating the smallest number of admitted students in the last decade and the highest admit rate in the last decade.

 

What number/percentage of applicants will be admitted for fall 2014?  Even as many law schools move closer to open enrollment, the reality is that some percentage of applicants is truly inadmissible – with significant character and fitness issues and/or LSAT/GPA profiles that are just too low to believe the applicant can be successful in law school and on the bar exam.  Perhaps 3% of applicants have significant character and fitness issues (between 2008 and 2011, at least 3% of applicants with an LSAT of 170 or higher were not admitted).  In addition, several thousand applicants have an LSAT below 145, many with GPAs that are less than 3.0, resulting in indices that should be problematic for law school admissions officers attentive to whether applicants can be successful in law school and on the bar exam.  In the 2010-11 cycle, 59% of applicants with LSATs of 145-149 were admitted; in the 2012-13 cycle, 73% of applicants with LSATs of 145-149 were admitted.  Similarly, in the 2010-11 cycle, only 28% of applicants with LSATs of 140-144 were admitted; in the 2012-2013 cycle, 51% of applicants with LSATs of 140-144 were admitted.  This trend is likely to continue – the overall admit rate may not reach 80%, but it will inch even closer to 80%.

 

For fall 2013, law schools found nearly 14,000 applicants to be inadmissible, down from 17,300 applicants who were not admitted in fall 2012. If we assume that the number of inadmissible applicants shrinks further – that collectively law schools will find only 12,000 to be truly inadmissible -- that would leave roughly 42,000 to 43,000 admissible applicants depending upon whether the applicant pool is 54,000 or 55,000.  Assuming everyone who is deemed admissible is admitted somewhere, that would be a national admit rate of roughly 78% -- once again the smallest number admitted and the highest percentage admitted.

 

MATRICULANTS - If you look at the LSAC Volume Summary, the average rate at which admitted students became ABA first-year students between 2003 and 2013 was roughly 87%. If the assumptions about the numbers of admitted students set forth above are accurate, and if the admit-to-matriculant rate remains at 87%, then the 42,000 to 43,000 likely admitted applicants would translate into roughly 36,500 to 37,400  first-year students law schools should expect to matriculate this fall, an enrollment decline of somewhere between 5.7% and 8% from the 39,675 first-year matriculants in fall 2013.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwhiteboard/2014/03/projections-for-law-school-enrollment-for-fall-2014.html

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Comments

Can we just subtract the Spanish language LSAT takers? How many of these would have taken the English LSAT if it was the only option?

Posted by: Y | Mar 20, 2014 3:55:04 AM

"In addition, several thousand applicants have an LSAT below 145, many with GPAs that are less than 3.0, resulting in indices that should be problematic for law school admissions officers attentive to whether applicants can be successful in law school and on the bar exam."

In one of these blogs, there was one school mentioned which had a 25th percentile LSAT score equal to the 10th percentile of all test-takers, and a median GPA of 2.6something.

Given a choice between going out of business or lowering standards, the administration and faculty of *any*[1] free-standing law school will choose the latter.

[1] Does anybody know of one which would choose the former?

Posted by: Barry | Mar 20, 2014 7:25:51 AM

Apparently Appalachian State actually is doing that; they've gone from a 1L class of 70 to an expected 40-student class next fall.

Posted by: Barry | Mar 24, 2014 7:21:47 AM

Is it usually really hard to get into law school? I think becoming a lawyer would be really great for me. I just want to make sure it's a realistic goal! www.raepartners.com.au

Posted by: Hilary | Mar 28, 2014 1:15:54 PM

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