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GraduateThe Best Law Schools Are Attracting Fewer Students

In life, there is good with the bad and bad with the good. For law schools, there certainly has been a lot of bad recently. And now, even elite law schools are getting their dose of the bad news. It turns out, even the blue chip schools haven’t gone unscathed by the economic downturn in 2009. According to a January report from Bloomberg Businessweek, median applications and enrollment have dropped for the top 20 law schools (according to U.S. News rankings).
Specifically, since 2011, applications to the top 20 law schools have dropped by a median of 18%. The biggest hit was absorbed by the University of Minnesota’s School of Law, which has an astounding 44% fewer applications now compared to 2011. Applications to Yale Law School (#1 in the rankings) dropped by 13% and Harvard Law School saw applications fall by 18%.
Only three schools in the top 20 actually had applications increase over the past five application cycles. Washington University in St. Louis Law School led the schools in the positive with a 20% increase in applicants, eclipsing the other positive schools by several points. The University of Pennsylvania School of Law had an uptick of 3%. Meanwhile, Stanford Law School had a 2% increase.
However, the fall in first-year enrollment was not as drastic. The top 20 schools saw a median drop in enrollment by just 5%. Again, the University of Minnesota School of Law experienced the biggest decrease with roughly 29% fewer first-year students this year than 2011. Yale Law School downsized by about 3%. Just three of the top 20 schools increased enrollment and Stanford Law School maintained the same amount. The schools that increased enrollment were Harvard Law School (by about 2%), Duke University School of Law (by about 7%) and the University of California-Berkeley Law School (by about 16%).
And now for the good newa. It’s probably never been easier to get into an elite law school for a top candidate. And there definitely has never been more scholarship money available for top applicants. In fact, schools are openly admitting to competing for top candidates through scholarship dollars.
For example, in 2010, more than 12,000 applicants scored at least a 165 on the LSAT (the max is 180). In 2015, just under 7,000 applicants did the same. And looking at the dwindling applicant pool compared to actual enrollment, there is definitely a discrepancy. According to the Bloomberg report, the top-tier schools (top 50 schools) are admitting a median of 7% more people since 2011.
“It creates a competitive pressure on the part of the top law schools in competing for a smaller pool of the very top applicants; there is no question about it,” Daniel Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern University School of Law, told Bloomberg Businessweek.
“Top schools have made more substantial investments in financial aid in recent years,” he continued. “We are spending more money on competing for students—and still seeing enrollment decline.”
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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