Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Comparison of 2010 and 2011 Enrollment and Profile Data Among Law Schools

A recent posting by Paul McGreal at The Faculty Lounge and an article in the National Law Journal by Matt Leichter (discussed in July here on the Legal Whiteboard) raise issues about the enrollment challenges law schools began facing last year, are facing now, and likely will face next year.  This post summarizes the comparative data for the 2010 and 2011 entering classes covering the 197 schools ranked by USNews.

PROFILES IN DECLINE -- Between 2010 and 2011, 111 law schools had a decline in their LSAT/GPA profile, 59 had an increase in profile, and 27 had a mixed profile.  (A decline means across six possible data points, 75th, median, and 25th for LSAT and GPA, more scores went down then up; an increase means more scores went up than down; a mixed profile means the same number of scores went up as went down.  For example, if a school had an LSAT/GPA profile in 2010 of 160/156/153 and 3.82/3.65/3.45 and an LSAT/GPA profile in 2011 of 160/156/152 and 3.83/3.64/3.43, this would be a decline in profile – down on three parameters and up on one parameter.)   The average 75th LSAT has dropped from 160.2 to 159.9, while the average 25 LSAT has dropped from 155.2 to 154.3.  The median scores for the 75 and 25 fell from 160 and 155 for LSAT to 159 and 153.

ENROLLMENT IN DECLINE – Between 2010 and 2011, 141 law schools had a decline in enrollment (of which 63 had a decline of 10% or more), 30 had an increase in enrollment (of which 6 had an increase of 10% or more), and 26 had flat enrollment (within +/- 1% of 2010 enrollment).  This means over 70% of schools had a decline in enrollment and that nearly one-third had a decline in enrollment of 10% or more.  The decline in enrollment totaled roughly 4000 students or roughly 8 percent.

ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES IN DECLINE – Most significantly, 75 schools (roughly 38%) saw declines in enrollment and in their LSAT/GPA profiles, of which 37 schools saw declines in enrollment of greater than 10% and saw declines in their LSAT/GPA profiles.  These 37 schools are highlighted here -- (original chart has been deleted and replaced by an updated chart reflecting 39 schools as described in post on August 16).  Four of the schools are ranked in the top-50, while the other 33 schools are relatively evenly divided between the second-50, the third-45 and the alphabetical schools.  There is some geographic concentration, with five Ohio schools (plus Northern Kentucky), three Illinois schools and four of the six Missouri and Kansas schools on the list.  Notably, 16 of the 37 are state law schools, several of which are relatively low-tuition schools that should conceivably fare better in the current climate in which prospective students are increasingly concerned about the cost of legal education.

FORECAST FOR 2012-- Given that LSAC has estimated a decline of roughly 14.4% in the number of applicants for fall 2012, from 78500 to roughly 67000, and given that the decline has been greatest among those with higher LSAT scores, one should anticipate further declines in enrollment and further erosion of entering class LSAT/GPA profiles for fall 2012.  The admit rate will be the highest it has been this millennium, probably exceeding 75% and possibly exceeding 80% (after increasing from 55% to 71% between 2004 and 2011).

IMPACT FELT ACROSS THE RANKINGS CONTINUUM, BUT WORSE FOR LOWER-RANKED SCHOOLS -- While the decline in enrollment and in profiles was experienced across the board, it was more pronounced among lower ranked schools. 

-Among the top 100 schools, 55 schools (over one-half) had a decline in profile, while 67 (two-thirds) had a decline in enrollment, with 27 experiencing a decline in enrollment of 10% or more.  Notably, 35 schools saw a decline in enrollment and in profile (over one-third) of which 15 schools saw declines in enrollment of 10% or more and a decline in profile.  Overall enrollment was down roughly 6%.

-Across the bottom 97 schools then, 56 saw a decline in profile while 74 (more than three-quarters) saw a decline in enrollment, of which 36 (nearly 40%) saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more.  Notably 40 schools saw a decline in enrollment and a decline in profile, of which 22 saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more and a decline in profile.  Overall, enrollment was down nearly 10%.

[Posted by Jerry Organ]

Data on legal education | Permalink


Thank you for the insightful analysis - this tool helps highlight which schools are ready to prostitute themselves (via dropped LSAT and grade standards) in order to keep their obscenely inflated tuition revenues/salaries - despite the collapse in legal hiring.

After 20 or 30 years of law school deceit concerning placement statistics - the chickens are *finally* coming home to roost.

And they are bringing spreadsheets and switchblades.

Posted by: cas127 | Aug 9, 2012 7:16:28 PM

Could you post the full data set on the changes in enrollment and profiles? Or, where could I find that?

Posted by: JM | Aug 11, 2012 9:54:47 AM

Can we see the full data set that the linked pdf came from?

Posted by: JM | Aug 11, 2012 10:43:50 AM

When I went to law school (10 years ago) they roped us all in telling us about median salaries just below the $100k mark, so of course, I jumped at that and took out an insane amount of loans. So many other students have done the same thing, believing that a law degree is "competitive" and think the degree is worth something. Its no surprise to me that these law schools are just raking in the profits by letting anyone that can read in now, flooding the market, and putting thousands of students in debt. Disgraceful actions on the parts of these law schools. And when are our elected officials going to tackle the issue of allowing bankruptcy on some student loans now because of this bait and switch technique these schools have pulled?

Posted by: Nick | Aug 12, 2012 10:11:44 AM

I pray for a wave of law school closings, as students finally figure out what a disastrous decision it is.

Posted by: John | Aug 12, 2012 11:33:51 PM

Blame the ABA-accredition standards. Joe's Bar & Law School could get at least provisionally accredited. Compare the educational requirements for a real profession - medicine. It is so difficult to get into an AMA-accredited M.D. program that graduates of even the lowliest such schools are presumptively very bright; there is no way you can say the same thing of law students, at least not with a straight face. And once they graduate, new doctors are subjected to years of additional training; by contrast, pass one bar exam and the most recent Cooley graduate is entitled to represent a client in a death penalty case. Law has destroyed itself as a serious profession, and the ABA has that on its hands.

Posted by: anon | Aug 13, 2012 11:16:28 AM