Law Schools Are Cutting Tuition … Even More

You won’t find a better time to apply to law school — well, a private school at least.

According to the tuition discounting report from the National Association of College and University Business Officers and the AccessLex Institute, law schools are offering steep discounts to attract more students.

In the report, the overall average institutional rate for participating law schools increased from 35% in fall 2015 to 39% in fall 2016. The report defines average intuitional discount rate as “the percentage of tuition and fee revenue schools used to fund their institutional grant aid programs.” In other words, financial aid rose by 4% in just one year.

Tuition discounts have traditionally been awarded to applicants with high LSAT scores.

Aaron Taylor is executive director of AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence. Taylor tells U.S. News & World Report that the number of test takers who score higher than 160 on the LSAT has declined in recent years.

“That group is coveted even more now, so they may have a higher chance of getting a scholarship than in the past,” he says. “And that scholarship is probably more lucrative or generous.”

Drop in law school applicants

According to the National Jurist, “JD enrollment is now at its lowest point in 42 years — with only 110,951 students [starting law school this fall], compared to 147,525 in 2010.”

Austen Parrish is dean and professor of law at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University—Bloomington. Parrish tells US News that tuition discounts are a way for schools to entice strong applicants away from competing law schools.

“If you look at the Access report, there has been an increase in discounting as the markets have become more competitive, and law schools have had to use money to maintain credentials and the quality of incoming students,” he says.

Yet, a number of schools say their tuition discount practices are not sustainable long-term strategies.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers, a membership organization representing more than 2,100 colleges and universities across the country, recently conducted a survey of private institutions. 44% of respondents said they “expect discounting will be sustainable for their institutions in the long term (as long as other net revenue strategies are successful, some added) while 41% either said they consider it unsustainable or sustainable in only the short term.”

Taylor, from AccessLex, says the increase in tuition discounts is a matter of simple economics.

“Practically every law school in the country is offering more tuition discounts or scholarships than they did pre-2010,” he tells U.S. News. “It really is a classic example of supply and demand. There are fewer applicants in the hopper, and that’s one of the ways schools are responding – whether it’s public or private.”

Sources: US News, AccessLex, National Association of College and University Business Officers