USNWR: As Law School Tuitions Climb, So Does Demand

The Price Is Right: All Rights Reserved

On June 22, 2010, Life’s Mockery published a post concernining law school tuition increase:Law School Tuition Hikes, Economy Downturn, why are you still going? « Life’s Mockery.  U.S. News and World Reports have finally taken the time to discuss it, only to present it as only beneficial to the legal industry:  July 14, 2010-As Law School Tuitions Climb, So Does Demand – US News and World Report. The title alone suggests that because so many law students continue to apply, the law schools just have to increase tuition. 0Ls are causing the tuition to climb, not the agents of profit making and student debt–well that just clears it up. Some law schools have opened more seats and increased tuition. I will not fathom how this increases value, it only diminishes it. Overflooding a saturated legal market drives down salaries and demand. Increasing debts of individuals, though they made their own decisions to incur it, decreases an individual’s ‘net worth’ making it even more difficult to obtain credit, equity lines, mortgages (I know more debt) to purchase property as well as overall affecting one’s credit score to rent. This is inclusive of all forms of shelter, a basic necessity. This only increases the perceived value of debt and not the actual law degree itself. The law degree is just the agent by which the debt exists, increasing tuition does not correlate with increasing the value of the law degree.

Tuition has risen for the 2010-2011 school year at law schools across the country, even as industry jobs disappear by the month. The most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows 3,900 jobs were cut from the legal sector in June alone, capping off a year of 22,200 job losses. I continue to try to make sense of this behavior. Even when some of these news article have smatterings of truth about the current state of affairs for the legal industry, 0Ls have been desparately convinced of going to law school. I think part of it is that one doesn’t comprehend the psychological and financial toll unless you’ve undergone it. It’s like when your mom told you not to touch the stove or you’ll get burnt. You see steam, fire or smoke and out of an insatiable curiosity you just have to try to touch it. This is understandable when you’re a child, but as we age, I would think that this old saying would emerge: to learn from the mistakes of others and profit from my own. Not to learn by making the exact same mistakes that droves of people continued to warn me of.

Throughout the article you’ll see the author insert suggestions on how to take the LSATS and which are the best law schools despite already admitting that the industry has shriveled.

Henderson noted that in this economic climate, even a degree from a top school does not guarantee a legal job. But California-based law school admissions consultant Ann Levine says that dimming job prospects and increasingly high tuition have yet to deter her nationwide client pool from seeking elite placements. 

“I had thought people would be more concerned about scholarships and willing to let go of ranking a little bit; I was wrong,” says Levine. “Still, people want to generally go to the best law school they can get into, regardless of costs.” At this point it seems like I’m a mocking bird, it is but so many times one can repeat the same issues: 1) law school is a default for those who don’t know what to do with themselves 2) law school has a false image of fast-track to big salary and prestige 3) false image that you can do anything with a law degree. In a prior post Life’s Mockery quoted members of the law school administration/academia referring to 0Ls as irrational and foolish for applying and attending law school at this point in the legal industry and economy. Here, this agent of a California law school EXPECTED for an increase of people to dive right into the 4th Tier pool with no water and not even think about rankings. Let’s face it, most law students, regardless of tier will not have a scholarship or fellowship to attend law school because they simply do not exist for most attendees in this profession.  How about that, not ony did she literally  bank on 0Ls to continue to apply to law schools but that you’ll be desparate enough (now that more knowledge and technology is out there) that you would ignore the perils of attending a 3rd or 4th tier law school, because their financial aid officer dangled some money in front of you. However, let’s be realistic on many schools offer scholarships, how many scholarships are offered and how many law students actual keep their scholarships after the first semester. Those would be some interesting statistics, in the end the potential law student will likely compromise his or her financial future and be miserable. In other words, she expected more 0Ls to be stupid in their decision on not only attending law school but to direct themselves right to the basement level.. However, should you know for sure that you’ll get full tuition and be able to keep it for the entire 3 years and not need money for food, gas and your other current bills, maybe you can. Nothing’s guaranteed, oft-times it’s just an enticement.

One of Levine’s clients, Oriana Pietrangelo, turned down several full rides for a partial scholarship this fall to Notre Dame Law School, a top tier school whose “name goes fairly far,” she says. 

“It would have been nice to not have any debt,” Pietrangelo says. “But I feel like I’m more likely to have a better job and higher paying salary going to Notre Dame as opposed to somewhere else.” But Pietrangelo is not yet devoted to Notre Dame Law School. She is on the waitlist at Northwestern University School of Law and, if accepted, she plans to attend and pay full tuition, she says, because it is ranked higher than Notre Dame. Wow, this person thinks going a few schools higher in rank and getting themselves into full law school debt will help their potential career. Slightly understandable, but the rationale is clearly flawed as Harvard and Yale law graduates are unable to find attorney positions in this economy.

While “everyone talks about the cost of tuition,” Levine says, “it’s actually not going to impact demand greatly because I think people see it as somewhat inevitable and beyond their control.”  As long as you allow them to charge you these exhorbitant tuition rates, they will continue to do so, because they know so many 0Ls are in love with the ‘prestige’ of the legal profession. She acknowledges that the legal industry will continue to do as it pleases and the 0Ls are enablers. There’s just an abundance of information on the web that there’s less of an excuse to put yourself through this than what many of us knew years ago.

Fiscally tough times especially hurt public law schools. Funding for higher education has been slashed in at least 41 financially strapped states, according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonprofit research organization. Higher education funding in Texas, for example, was reduced by $73 million, and public universities in Indiana saw a $150 million decrease this year.  No worries, Sallie Mae will help the schools out, since no one from an average financial background can reasonably afford the rates, student loans are inevitable. Attending law school isn’t though, you still have a chance 0L to make a wise decision earlier in your life.

“Certainly for the professions that tend to have a significant financial reward on the back end, we believe that students can pay a higher rate—whatever the market will allow for professional and graduate school,” Calderón said. “Then, if they have debt, they can retire that.” The problem is that for most law graduates there is not a significant financial reward, many are saddled with insurmountable debt. The market is not some extraneous variable. In a way it is supply and demand, but no one other than scam bloggers are truly addressing what is fueling the demand: misinformation from employment statistics to characterization of the legal industry.

Employment statistics are not taken into serious consideration, Calderón adds, because his board is not supplied with raw data.

“Perhaps we should,” he says. “But the question is, where do we get it and can we trust who’s giving it to us?” Maybe you can hire Fluster Cucked – RSS or Nando at THIRD TIER REALITY – Atom, I’m sure they’d be happy to assist.

Escalating tuition prices in a troubled market, spurred onward by generous student loans and students who are not fully committed to the profession, is a dangerous bubble that may well burst, Indiana University—Bloomington’s Henderson says.

“I’m trying to separate the value of the legal education from the signaling value that’s driving the bubble,” Henderson said. “The trends are clearly unsustainable.” You hear that, we are on the verge of Doomsday for the legal industry and 0Ls who continue to attend law school are just pumping that helium into the bubble until it bursts. You WILL NOT be able to say no one warned you, because many did, but your ego overcame you and it will be your worst enemy.

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