Law School Is Way Too Expensive. And Only The Federal Government Can Fix That.
There are a lot of not-so-great things about legal education and employment in the country right now. Less people are applying. Less people are enrolling. Less people are graduating with jobs. The list goes on. The positive spin is there are ample opportunities to make improvements. One of those improvements is how federal loans are handled and delved out.
David Lat, the founder and managing editor of Above the Law made a guest appearance in the Washington Post this week weighing in on how the federal government handles loans for law students could influence law school tuition and interest.
Lat’s first point is interesting and pertinent. The federal government is giving funding to anyone who wants to go to law school with almost complete disregard to who they are or where they want to go to school. But as Lat points out, a student going to Harvard (with a 2013 job placement rate of 86.9 percent) is not as likely as a student going to Thomas M. Cooley Law School (22.9 percent job placement rate) to be able to pay off those loans.
Nevertheless, if students are willing to pay whatever it takes to attend law school and the federal government is willing to lend whatever it takes for those students, law schools will (and have) jack up the cost of attending. Lat presents the words of law professor Brian Tamanaha, “Federal loans are an irresistible (and life-sustaining) drug for revenue addicted law schools … law schools have been ramping up tuition and enrollment without restraint thanks to an obliging federal loan program.”
Well, enrollment is no longer being ramped up and perhaps soon tuition will also drop. It already has at some schools. The most recent have been Pace University recently announcing a tuition-matching program, Seton Hall with a similar tuition reduction plan, and George Mason with a tuition freeze.
Lat proposes two solutions. First, the federal government either stops lending to law students all together or at least imposes a “per-student or per-school cap.” Of course, private lending companies could step in, but since banks are more relentless in getting loaned money back than the federal government, it’s unlikely.
The other idea is to ramp up loan money, or scholarships, to students entering public service law or law in rural communities (about the only place where there is a need for lawyers at the moment). South Dakota actually approved a program that is akin to this idea and subsidizes lawyers who commit to working five years with underserved populations in rural areas.
Regardless of where the improvement comes from, this is one shift that could alter the path of the legal profession and legal education.
Source: Washington Post
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