Monday, August 20, 2012

Law Applications Drop While Tuition Rises

From an article in the National Law Journal:

It's Supply and Demand 101: When demand for a product drops, prices fall to lure back buyers. But this fundamental law of economics doesn't apply to law schools. The number of applicants to U.S. law schools declined drastically during the past two years, yet the average tuition this fall will climb by more than double the rate of inflation.

Average tuition and fees at private law schools will increase approximately 4 percent over last year to $40,585, according to an examination of published rates by The National Law Journal. That's the first time private-school rates have crossed the $40,000 threshold. In-state resident students at public law schools will see a 6 percent increase on average, to approximately $23,590. Inflation is running at about 1.7 percent.

The tuition increases come at a tenuous time for legal education. Nationwide, the number of applicants has declined a cumulative 25 percent during the past two years, and some law schools have responded by slashing the size of their incoming classes. Growing debt loads and declining job prospects have been major factors taking the shine off a J.D.

The article acknowledges that law schools discount tuition for a significant number of applicants. However:

University of St. Thomas School of Law professor Jerome Organ has been analyzing law school tuition and scholarship rates for 2006 through 2011. During that time, tuition increased by an average 36 percent while the average median scholarship amount grew by 45 percent. However, the increase in scholarship money last year wasn't enough to fully offset tuition increases, and Organ expects that trend will continue this year.

Even with scholarship money on the rise, graduate debt loads continue to grow. Graduates of private schools left with an average $124,950 in debt last year, while their counterparts at public schools owed an average $75,728, according to the ABA.

This crazy “scholarship” system can’t continue much longer.


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