Last month, Prof. Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean of the Northwestern University School of Law, told The New York Times that him and his school were “in hand-to-hand combat with other schools” for the best students. It makes sense. If you are smart enough to score very well on the LSAT and have a great undergraduate GPA, you are probably smart enough to know paying sticker price for a law degree in a climate of soaring tuition and plummeting job placement is foolish. And now, according to Rodriguez and a few others, top students are increasingly negotiating their scholarship dollars with schools. What’s more, in some cases, it’s working.
The head of admissions at the University of Michigan Law School, Sarah Zearfoss, told The American Lawyer, “We use to give merit aid to a tiny portion. Now it to two-thirds of our students.” The Times reported Northwestern giving 74% of its first year students some form of scholarship. In 2009, that amount was 30%. However, Zearfoss said Michigan will not play the counteroffer game with students.
Nevertheless, Daniel Filler, a professor at Drexel University School of Law, says that’s not the case for all schools. Filler says the bargaining game for scholarships is “huge” and it is a “bid up, bid up for students” era. According to Filler this is mainly happening with law schools outside of the top few. Students will still pay top dollar for Harvard, Stanford or Yale, but if it comes down to a decision between a Northwestern (ranked 12th by U.S. News) or a Vanderbilt (ranked 16th) and Vanderbilt is offering a larger scholarship, students might use that to negotiate more from Northwestern or end up choosing Vanderbilt despite the slightly lower ranking.
According to Filler, this is being perpetuated by students posting LSAT scores, GPAs and scholarship amounts from certain schools on Internet message boards. Again, it just makes sense. Schools need top applicants to be ranked highly enough to continue to attract top applicants. Slippage in the rankings is more and more detrimental to a school trying to sustain itself during a downturn in class sizes. If you are willing to attend a lower-ranked school, there might be increasing amounts of scholarship dollars available for you.
Source: The American Lawyer
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