Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Given housing prices these days, the cost of attending grad school may now be the single biggest expenditure people make. With private (and some public) law school degrees weighing in at $100k to $150k a pop, and a legal marketplace that may be undergoing fundamental change, the decision to attend law school is not one that should be made lightly or without a very careful consideration of the financial pros and cons. Gone may be the days when students could ride out a recession in law school confident in the notion that the cost of a degree would pay for itself upon graduation.
Here's a thoughtful essay from the Veritas Prep Blog that addresses the new economic reality of obtaining a law degree:
[S]tudents should be more cognizant of the financial aspects of their law school choices. With an uncertain job market at the other end of the pipeline, it is no longer a cavalier thing to take out $150,000 in debt to obtain an elite law degree. In 2004, I would have been crazy to go to Duke for $70,000 rather than Chicago for $150,000. Now, in 2008? I'd probably be crazy to do the opposite. Schools are leveraging each other right now too, so it is a good time to pay attention to trends (this year Michigan appears to be the big spender) and also to barter with the schools.
All of this signifies a sea change in the selection/enrollment process. Until now, I would have told a student to pick among the top 14 law schools in this order:
Now, under these market conditions, I would change the order to:
In my humble opinion, it is far better to go to Cornell and have $50,000 in debt than go to NYU and carry $120,000 in student loans, when it might not matter much with regard to job prospects. Either the deals are going to start happening by the time you graduate (in which case you can get a great job from either school), or they're not (in which case you might be trouble coming from either school). This is now a major consideration. Put another way: students have to consider law school a little more like undergrad with regard to their cost versus return on investment (ROI) analysis.
Hat tip Legal Watch Blog.
I am the scholarship dude.