Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Tuition Discounting on the Rise and its Impact on Law Schools

According to this new survey, tuition discounting at private colleges and universities reached an average of 48% for freshman last year.  That is up from 38% in 2004.

How does this compare to what has been happening in legal education?  Back around 2004 I surveyed a range of private schools and the average discount rate was around 20%, about half of what it was then at colleges.  This year, based on what I know about my school and a handful of others, the average private law school discount rate is close to the college rate of 48%, maybe even somewhat higher.  This enormous increase reflects the intense competition for a much smaller number of applicants.  Most of this increased spending has occurred since 2010.  Nominal tuition rates have gone up during this time, but for many schools the rate of increase is smaller than in the past and much lower than the increase in scholarship spending.  Put these factors together, and it reveals the massive hits our budgets have taken.  

Of course there is good news for students in these numbers.  Lower enrollment means a better match between graduates and jobs.  And larger scholarships, perverse as our system of merit based aid is, means less debt.  In fact, I won't be surprised if debt loads at graduation soon start to decline.

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