Ohio Law Schools Face New Accreditation Proposal
Ohio law schools are preparing for a big change in how they maintain American Bar Association accreditation.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that a current proposal headed for a vote at the ABA’s midyear meeting this month would require at least 75% of a law school’s grads to pass the bar exam within two years or that school could risk losing its accreditation.
A Trend of Accepting Students With Lower Credentials
Law school enrollment has been down in recent years. And it’s having a dramatic effect on law schools. According to Law.com, the decline in enrollment from 2010 to 2016 has cost law schools nearly $1.5 billion in total each year.
“It’s absolutely shocking,” said Bernie Burk, a former professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law and co-author of the study, tells Law.com. “Close watchers of the academy—people who spend time and effort understanding what’s going on—have almost universally come back and said, ‘Wow, I had no idea the changes were this big.’”
But the large decline in enrollment has also created a window of opportunity for a number of applicants. According to US News, law school admissions have been less competitive in recent years. Their data shows that the average number of applicants at the top 14 ranked law schools was 20.6% lower for the entering
U.S. News data reveal that acceptance rates for the entering class of 2016 at the top 14 law schools were only slightly higher than they were for the entering class of 2008. But at lower-ranked law schools, acceptance rates increased more than 20 percentage points between 2008 and 2016.
“Law schools are more generous overall, meaning that students with lower LSAT scores are probably more likely to receive scholarship aid than they were before the downturn,” Aaron N. Taylor, executive director of the nonprofit AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence, tells US News. “But the scholarship awards for students with higher LSAT scores have become much more generous (and common). So while lower LSAT scorers are reaping some benefits from this renewed generosity, it is the higher LSAT scorers who are reaping the true windfalls.”
What Does That Mean For Ohio Law Schools?
For many Ohio law schools leaders, the proposed change isn’t bringing panic or chaos.
In fact, deans and representatives from all nine of Ohio’s law schools released statements to the Dispatch saying that their school would have no trouble in regard to bar exam passage under the new proposal.
“If the standard were adopted and applied to us, we think we’d be fine,” Ohio Northern University College of Law Dean David Crago tells Dispatch.“cvWe feel like going forward, if that’s the standard we have to meet, we’ll meet it, and we won’t have a significant impact or change in what we do.”
However, some have expressed concern about how the change could affect minority students.
Capital University Law School Dean Rachel Janutis was one of 90 deans who signed a letter from the Association of American Law Schools urging the proposal to be further considered in the early stages.
The ABA has since collected data and concluded that the proposed change would not negatively affect students.
“I think the biggest difference is the ABA has collected some data,” Janutis tells the Dispatch. “I would hope that the ABA would continue to collect data, study the data and just ensure that the accreditation standards are doing their job, which are providing consumer information to help prospective law students make informed choices.”