Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education holds its First Meeting

The Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education held its first meeting last weekend.   (here)  The task force's purpose  is to "gather information, data, and a wide set of views related to its charge.  Overall, the Task Force aims to understand (a) the principal cost drivers of legal education and costs might be contained; and (b) the key mechanisms used by students and law schools to cover those costs."  (here)  "Beginning with the public hearing, the task force is delving into how law schools use merit scholarships, tuition discounts and need-based financial aid."  (here)

Among the issues discussed at the meeting were

1. How  federal student loan reform has affected law school tuition.   Kyle McEntee "asked the task force to seek congressional action to stop what he considers the biggest problem: readily available student loans.  'Schools have a blank check for basically bringing in as many people as they can and charging them as much as they can,' McEntee said."

2.  "[I]ncreasing law school tuition and skyrocketing debt, and specifically the impact that that has not only on an individual's ability to attend law school, but ultimately on the ability of law graduates to serve moderate- to low-income communities."  Bucky Askew declared, "In terms of access to justice, there will be a terrible problem if we don't produce lawyers who will be able to serve communities in need." He continued, "I would say we're not over-lawyered here, we're under-lawyered."

3.  How "decreases in state support of public law schools; a overall lowering of student/faculty ratios; and the resulting increase in the number of tenure-track and adjunct faculty" have affected law school tuition.

4.  Dean Nicholas Allred attacked law school's dependence on rankings.  Allard proposed "there be more open discussion and criticism of rankings. He also suggest[ed] law schools cut tuition, shifting ballooning scholarship budgets to tuition reductions so there's a 'scholarship to everybody.'"

Among these issues, the one that bothers the most is that many (most?) law schools are using merit scholarships funded by lower ranked students to move up in the U.S. News rankings.  These are the students who will be taking the jobs helping the poor and middle class, but they will be unable to do so because of the large amount of debt they incurred in law school.  I believe that law schools should have no merit scholarships that are funded by the tuition of other students.

(Scott Fruehwald)


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