The good news about committing to law school (six figure debt be damned) is the market is shifting. And this shift is giving greater weight to the student. We all know the story. Applications are dropping, with first year enrollment numbers being the lowest since the 1970s. Now, recent graduates are forced to carry debt into an unstable job market like porters carrying the load of out-of-shape Americans in the Andes.
According to a recent report from The New York Times, law schools are concerned about enrollments. And entering law students are trying to take advantage. Instead of students being grateful for admittance into law schools, they are haggling. Daniel Rodriquez, dean of the Northwestern University School of Law, spent the final weeks before classes on the phone with incoming students trying to bargain down tuition. At Northwestern. This isn’t Eastern California Institute of Technology and Agriculture School of Law (not an actual school, but Google it if you are wondering).
Professor Rodriquez described the situation to The Times as “hand-to-hand combat with other schools.” It is unclear if the bargaining has proved fruitful, but some schools are heeding the message from frugal students. Law schools at the University of Arizona, University of Iowa, and Penn State University have all decreased tuition. The Wayne State University School of Law has frozen tuition and increased the scholarship budget.
The article points out that many $160K big law jobs were shed at firms during the Great Recession and those firms have yet to add back those jobs. The class of 2013 only had 57% of its graduates with jobs requiring bar passage nine months after graduation. With the increasing fear of being unemployed with mountains of debt, it makes sense for students to do whatever they can to minimize the cost of law school.
This is leading to two things—increases in financial aid and a few schools seeing lower median LSAT scores and GPAs. According to the article, Northwestern has been reaching out to alumni for financial support of scholarship funds. They have also seen a median LSAT decrease of two points (170 to 168) from 2009 to 2014. Now, according to Rodriguez, the question could be are there two many law schools compared to the amount of prospective students?
Source: The New York Times
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