Monday, July 30, 2012

Law schools hand-out lots of scholarship money to fill seats

Several stories have recently filtering out about the steps schools are taking these days to fill seats in light of the shrinking applicant pool (here, here and here).  This article from the Wall Street Journal  sums up what Professor William Henderson calls the "100 year flood" that's led to such scholarship largess.

More Law Schools Haggle on Scholarships

Getting into law school is easier than it used to be. But while the steady, postrecession drop in applications has made life easier for prospective students, it has posed new challenges for law schools.

Some schools are having so much trouble filling their seats that they are negotiating scholarships, accepting some applications long after formal deadlines, and offering up other perks to entice the best prospective students.

"I'm calling this the 100-year flood for law schools," said William Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University and an expert in the business of law. "People are groping for models on how to deal with this but none really exist; we're in uncharted territory."

The schools' new strategies have arisen out of a period of turmoil for the legal academy that dates largely to the recession of 2009-10, when law firms, faced with shrinking demand for their services, laid off lawyers in droves and cut back on hiring recent law-school graduates. Hiring has bounced back somewhat since then, but it hasn't returned to prerecession levels.

As a result, law-school applications have fallen, and prospective students have gained leverage. Robert Rasmussen, dean of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, said students have become increasingly "price sensitive," and are pushing back on tuition figures and scholarship offers. "Students are much more willing to raise this issue than they ever have been in the past."

Enterprising or cash-strapped students have long negotiated with schools over the price of admission. But more than ever, schools are listening. For instance, the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law earlier this year sent letters to admitted students encouraging them to bargain. "We very much hope you find this offer competitive with others you have received," read one letter, dated March 2012 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "Please let us know."

"It's an acknowledgment that it's a competitive market out there and there are going to be other competitive offers," said Robert Schwartz, dean for admissions and financial aid at UCLA's law school. "We want to keep the dialogue open."

Continue reading here.


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