Monday, June 20, 2011

Two more law schools voluntarily reduce class size; one at substantial financial sacrifice

We had previously reported back in March about a couple of law schools that have decided to admit fewer students this fall in response to the poor job market for lawyers.  Now, according to Above the Law, two more schools have done likewise - Creighton and Western New England.  For Creighton, though, this isn't a one-time adjustment in response to lower applications. (A cynic might say that some schools are reducing class size in order to maintain their USNWR ranking which considers the selectivity of the incoming class).  Creighton's Dean Culhane is instead planning on reducing the class size for the next four years and that means forgoing about $600k in revenue for each of those years. From the Omaha World-Herald (via ATL's coverage here):

A newly minted law degree is not turning out to be the passport to lucrative employment that aspiring lawyers expected when they signed up for law school and took on tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.

With the tight job market in mind, the Creighton University School of Law recently informed its alumni that it would be reducing its class size by 20 students for each of the next four years.

“Although demand for a Creighton legal education remains high ... we feel a moral obligation to admit fewer students until employment prospects for new attorneys improve,” Dean Marianne Culhane wrote in a letter to alumni.

Officials with the University of Nebraska and the University of Iowa Colleges of Law said they have hired more career placement staff members rather than reduce their class sizes.

Creighton's classes currently are around 150 to 155 students. Starting this fall, the class will be about 135 students, said Patrick Borchers, vice president for academic affairs and a former dean of the law school.

Borchers described Creighton's approach as somewhat unusual. Few schools are cutting class sizes because of the job market, even though graduates are having a tougher time finding work.

“Trust me, there isn't a law school in the country that isn't feeling the same kind of pinch,” he said. “This is how we're responding to it. There probably are other (law schools) doing this, but there aren't a whole lot of them.”

Though a class-size reduction brings some advantages, such as a smaller student-teacher ratio, Borchers said it is a tough decision, financially, to make.

With law school tuition at $30,000 a year, Creighton will forgo about $600,000 in annual revenue. In its letter to alumni, Creighton sought additional financial donations.

NALP, an association for legal career professionals, reported this month that 2010 law school graduates nationwide faced the worst job market in 15 years and one of the worst in the past three decades. The recent economic recession cost thousands of attorneys across the country their jobs.

It's a small but important gesture for the faculty to show recent grads that it is willing to share in the hardship of a lousy job market. You can read more from the World-Herald here.


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