Sunday, April 6, 2014

More Criticism of Law School Merit Scholarships

We have written several times on this blog about the unethical practice of raising tuition for some students to provide "merit" scholarships to students with high LSATs and GPAs in order to raise a school's rank in the U.S. News law school rankings.  Now, Michael Krauss of George Mason has written an article for Forbes on this practice.

Professor Krauss writes, "The problem of law school merit scholarships is a complicated and nuanced one, especially for those who have not considered it at length. " 

"The upshot of all this is that, at most law schools, price discrimination results in poorer, less well-educated students 'subsidizing' (paying higher tuition than) richer, better-educated students.  For their subsidy, poorer students are penalized a second time at graduation – because the subsidized richer students will tend to finish at the top of the class and get better paying jobs, while the poorer students will find it harder and harder to find employment to pay for their higher student loans.  Thus are  'list price' payers made to seem to be chumps over and over again, while the recipients of merit scholarships laugh, as it were, all the way to the bank."

"For those who believe this to be ethically problematic, outside intervention may be necessary to solve what is essentially a Prisoners' Dilemma."

"Law professors are, for the most part, lawyers, and we are bound ethically to make access to our profession accessible to qualified and interested people.  Have we done this by setting up a system that transfers resources from the more to the less needy? If so, perhaps we need to rethink what we are doing."

In my opinion, the only way for law schools to produce ethical graduates is to provide role models for their students.  You cannot produce an ethical lawyer when the law school adopts unethical practices.   Law schools need to end their unethical pricing practices, or it will be doing a great disservice to the public.

(Scott Fruehwald) (hat tip Paul Caron)

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