Tipping the Scales

Law Schools With Declining Enrollment

by Jeff Schmitt on

bungee

The Law Schools with the Biggest Drops in Enrollment

 

The “law school crisis” may be bottoming out, but we’re still learning about its collateral damage. 

No, you can’t get away from the four horsemen of the legal apocalypse: High debt, declining enrollments, fewer job prospects, and decreased demand. And you probably can’t shake the image of lining up to accept your degree before tossing your cap and gown to don an apron at the next-door Starbucks. Sure, law schools have cut class sizes, frozen tuition, and even shed faculty and staff–and they’re leaner and more student-centric as a result. But a huge price was paid to get there.

How big? According to a new study by National Jurist, 18 law schools saw their enrollment drop by 30% or more from 2010-2013. And this includes well-known institutions like the law schools at Seton Hall, St. Louis University, and Case Western. In fact, enrollment dropped by an average of 99 students over this three-year period–a 10.8% decline overall.  

According to National Jurist, these results were compiled by comparing numbers for the 2010-2011 academic year from the American Bar Association (ABA) with 2013-2014 data from law schools’ most recent ABA 509 reports–data was collected for 196 law schools, ranging from top-tier institutions to the proverbial diploma mills.

The largest declines were found at the University of La Verne’s College of Law and Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where enrollment declined 66.2% and 40.6%, respectively. In fact, Cooley’s five campuses saw enrollment drop from 3,931 students to 2,334 students over this three-year period.  

So what other schools experienced the worst when the law bubble popped? Here is National Jurist’s list:

Law SchoolEnrollment Decline
University of La Verne66.2%
Cooley Law School40.6%
Catholic University39.5%
New York Law School38.7%
University of Dayton38.5%
Pacific McGeorge School of Law38.4%
Widener University – Harrisburg36.9%
University of New Hampshire34.8%
Seton Hall University34.7%
Liberty University33.9%
Western New England University33.3%
Case Western University32.7%
Hamline University32.7%
Ave Maria School of Law31.8%
Appalachian School of Law31.0%
Widener University – Delaware30.5%
Vermont Law School30.5%
Saint Louis University30.2%
Duquesne University29.7%
Pace University29.3%
University of Tulsa29.3%
Quinnipiac University28.9%
George Mason University28.9%
California Western School of Law28.1%
University of Iowa28.0%

 

On the bright side, 16 schools gained enrollment from 2010-2013, led by the Charlotte School of Law (from 812 to 1,410 students), Arizona Summit (724 to 927), and Barry University School of Law (717 to 787).

Despite his school losing over 40% of its students, Paul Zelenski, associate dean of enrollment and student services at Cooley Law School, stoically took the long view. “I think law school enrollment will recover, probably not to the level it once was, but with the current trend of fewer people enrolling in law school now, coupled with an aging profession, there will be a need for attorneys, not even accounting for the hundreds of other things you can do with a law degree.”

Source: National Jurist

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  • Guest

    How in the hell is Charlotte, Phoenix, and Barry increasing class sizes “the bright side”? Three of the worst schools in the country are getting bigger and that’s a good thing?

  • Sadly

    Only a moron would attend Cooley Law. They flunk you out after they grab all your money.

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