Marijuana Law, Policy & Reform

Editor: Douglas A. Berman
Moritz College of Law

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Could marijuana reform in part explain application and enrollment boost at University of Colorado Law School?

The question in the title of this post was the thought that kept coming to mind as I read this interesting article headlined "CU-Boulder law school sees enrollment boom as numbers fall nationally."  As those in and following closely the law school industry know all too well, both applications and enrollment has been way down at most law schools nationwide over the last few years.  But, as the article explains, the flagship school in a flagship state for marijuana reform now has a different story to tell:

At a time when interest in attending law school appears to be waning across the country, the University of Colorado Law School this fall has seen a 22 percent increase in first-year students. CU's newest crop of law students totals 205, up from 168 students in the first-year class of 2014.

Though they're still trying to determine the exact cause of the enrollment boost, Colorado Law administrators contend that the school is in a desirable location and has a reputation for putting students in jobs after graduation. "We've been really working hard at communicating our value proposition and why Colorado Law is a special place to be," Dean Philip Weiser said. "We are getting that story out there. That story picks up on the fact that we are really helping our students on the job front."

Since 2005, CU's first-year law classes have hovered between 160 and 180 students each year. The American Bar Association reported that fall 2014 first-year enrollment levels in the United States, the most recent data available, were the lowest since 1973. The 2014 new student enrollment figure represented a 4.4 percent decrease from 2013 and a 27.7 percent decrease from 2010, when first-year law school enrollment peaked. Nearly two-thirds of association-approved law schools experienced first-year enrollment declines last year....

It seems that trend is continuing into 2015, though official enrollment numbers aren't yet available. The Law School Admission Council reported in August that applications were down 4 percent from 2014. Despite that, applications to Colorado Law increased in 2015 to 2,383, up from 2,180 applications in 2014.

CU admitted a few more students this year and saw an increased yield rate, or the number of students who enrolled after being admitted. This year, the yield rate was about 19 percent, compared to 15 percent in 2014.

At the same time, the academic qualifications of the 2015 entering class stayed roughly the same as those of the 2014 class, Weiser said. The median LSAT score stayed the same and the median cumulative grade point average declined from 3.62 in 2014 to 3.6 in 2015.

Roughly 70 percent of the entering class of 2015 came from outside of Colorado, up from 59 percent in 2014. Weiser believes the law school's setting and collaborative environment drew students to Boulder this year. "Part of the story is Colorado," Weiser said. "One is that our community in Colorado is a special community that really wants to help each other and collaborate and that cultural appeal resonates."

He said the law school has always been less reliant on large, corporate law firms than other schools. Instead, Colorado Law graduates tend to be more innovative in their career choices. "We have a very entrepreneurial student population, alumni population, who have done all sorts of interesting things," Weiser said. "There are lots of opportunities for smart people who are creative, who know how to communicative, know how to analyze. "I remain excited about what our students are going to be able to do and the careers they're going to be able to have."

Not surprisingly, marijuana reform is not mentioned in this article as a reason for the uptick in both applications and entering students, but the fact that a much larger percentage of students in the entering class came from outside the state is notable and certainly reinforces my speculations. In addition, I am certain that marijuana reform has helped the overall Colorado economy and the business needs for legal help in a highly-regulated industry.

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/marijuana_law/2015/10/could-marijuana-reform-in-part-explain-enrollment-boost-at-university-of-colorado.html

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