'At-Risk' Law Students: A New Norm?

Charleston School of Law is one of the schools that falls deep into 'at-risk' territory

Charleston School of Law is one of the schools that falls deep into ‘at-risk’ territory

The report examines LSAT scores, which according to the Law School Admissions Council research, is the most likely indicator of bar success or failure at the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles in all ABA-accredited schools since 2010. Scores of 149 or less were considered at-risk. The LSAT is scored on a scale from 120 to 180.
The doom and gloom of the report supports what Moeser alluded to and many national and legal media outlets have pointed to for years now. Not only are less people enrolling in law school, but fewer qualified people are enrolling. And as the report says, schools are relying too heavily on tuition dollars to stay afloat, which has led to lax admission standards.
“Virtually all law schools depend heavily on tuition, with many schools deriving substantially all revenue from tuition. This was not a problem when demand for legal education allowed schools to steadily raise tuition revenue,” the report states.

And the reports numbers, again, back up the claim. In 2010, only 30 law schools had a 25th percentile score of 149 or lower. In 2014, the number was 74 and 37 of those schools admitted classes with a 50th percentile of 149 or lower. Even scarier, 16 schools admitted 75 to 100% of students at-risk of failing the bar. In other words, somewhere between 75 and 100% of their entering 2014 class scored a 149 or less on the LSAT. On the other side, 51 schools admitted entire classes with ‘minimal risk’ (156-180 LSAT scores) of failing the bar.
“A number of studies, close analysis of relevant data, and the ABA standards reinforce the developing problem: many law schools are enrolling students who face substantial risk of failing the bar exam to keep their doors open,” the report states.
Of course, there are deeper issues at hand. For example, many schools are graduating students not only bound for bar failure, but with six-figure debt amounts hanging over their heads. “At-risk students subsidize tuition for peers who are more likely to pass the bar exam and obtain gainful employment. As price discrimination shifts even more dramatically away from at-risk students, they will pay even higher prices,” the report claims.
The report also says ‘serious risk schools’ are four times more likely to have below average job rates—regardless of bar passage rates. “Based on available salary data from serious risk schools, graduates from these programs cannot service their debts without generous federal hardship programs. Even top earners at the more affordable schools face economic difficulty; the rest range from economic difficulty to catastrophe,” the report bleakly states.