Sixteen Penn Law faculty members have signed an open letter criticizing the University's campus sex assault adjudication processes for being insufficiently protective of the rights of the accused. The letter is here and and the Philadelphia Inquirer story is here.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 2/06/15, there are 208,268 fall 2015 applications submitted by 30,454 applicants. Applicants are down 5.0% and applications are down 8.4% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 59% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, then we will have about about 51,616 total applicants for the fall 2015. The last post in this series is here.
Last week applicants were down 8% over last year and this week "only" 5%. I'm guessing that this is because a lot of people put in applications at the end of January and those perhaps posted on Monday morning of last week. Will be very interesting to see if the gap continues to close with last year or if we now stay at about the same spot or if the gap widens again. For comparison, two years ago we had 62% of the applicants at this time. As I said last week in the comments, I think we'll have a very good idea of the total number of applicants for the class entering in fall 2015 by mid-March.
Newly elected Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe nominated Duquene Law Dean Ken Gormley to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court today. He was nominated to serve the remainder of one of two current vacant slots on the Court - until new justices are elected this fall. Gormley has agreed not to run in that election and will, presumably, return to Duquesne. This will be a nice addition to Gormley's "service" report to the school's provost next year.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 1/30/15, there are 186,545 fall 2015 applications submitted by 26,702 applicants. Applicants are down 8.6% and applications are down 10.5% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 54% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, there will be approximately 49,448 applicants for the fall class. The last post in this series is here.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 1/23/15, there are 168,887 fall 2015 applications submitted by 24,097 applicants. Applicants are down 7.3% and applications are down 9.8% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 48% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, we'll have approximately 50,202 total applicants for the class entering in fall 2015. The last post in this series is here.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 1/16/15, there are 153,547 fall 2015 applications submitted by 22,272 applicants. Applicants are down 7.7% and applications are down 10.4% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 44% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, we'll have approximately 50,618 total applicants for the class entering in fall 2015.
The article discusses lower admission standards at American law schools and the potential consequences thereof. I, Jerry Organ, Jay Conison, Barry Currier (managing director of accreditation and legal education at the ABA)and senior administrators from Thomas Cooley and Southern University Law School are quoted. Check it out here.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 1/09/15, there are 135,408 fall 2015 applications submitted by 19,904 applicants. Applicants are down 8.5% and applications are down 10.8% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 40% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, we'll have approximately 49,760 total applicants for the class entering in fall 2015.
(I would add in light of a reader's email to me asking about my prediction of the first year class this coming fall, that I haven't been predicting the number of first years next fall. But if the applicants continue to be down about 8.5%, total first year enrollment next fall of 35,000-36,000 sounds about right to me. Probably a lot closer to 35,000 than 36,000.)
The Bloomberg article mostly gets it right, but misses some important points that only someone well-versed in LSAT scores and law school admissions practices would know, and gets a couple of things flat wrong. In this post, I will identify and explain some of the points they missed or misintepreted.
First, the article notes that 95% of the 196 ABA accredited law schools dropped their LSAT scores at the 25th percentile since 2010. Almost every law school in America, aside from a very small handful of schools that “got hot” in the last couple of years and saw an uptick in applications, lowered their admission standards. But if you look at the NCBE report, many law schools appear to have lowered their standards only very slightly, when in fact most of them have lowered their standards significantly. It is just that many law schools managed to hide this fact. How does a law school lower its standards without appearing to do so? The answer lies in the fact that law schools are only required to report their LSAT profiles at the 25th, 50th and 75th percentile. The only thing known about the scores of the bottom 24% are that they are at or below those at the 25th percentile. As I have noted in previous posts, in response to the dramatic decline in applications, law schools have had a choice: they could lower admission standards, shrink the size of the incoming class, or some combination of the two. In order to maintain their ranking, law schools are loathe to lower their entrance credentials, but law schools are also reluctant to cut faculty, staff and programs as would likely be required if they cut their entering classes. One way to appear to be maintaining entrance credentials without making significant cuts in class size is for a law school to admit much weaker students in the bottom 24%.
Let’s look at an example of how this might work. The average LSAT profile nationally in 2013 was 158.6/156/152.5 at the 75th, 50th and 25th percentiles. So a law school in the middle of the pack or slightly above might report a 159/156/153. Suppose the law school has a first year class of 200, so the 150th student has a 153 LSAT. In years when there are lots of applicants, we might expect the bottom 50 students to mostly have LSATs very close to 153, mostly in the 151-152 range. Students just below the school's 25th percentile would jump at the chance to go to a school where they considered themselves lucky to get in, and they would likely pay full tuition for the opportunity to do so. Thus, back in 2010, it would be very surprising if a school with a 153 25th percentile was admitting more than a handful of students below 150. But in this cycle of ever decreasing applications, when law schools are competing for every law student with even modest aptitude, students with 152s, 151s and 150s are not only getting multiple acceptances to decent law schools, but they are getting substantial scholarship offers. So, in order to fill the class, this law school is going to have to take a bunch of students with LSATs in the 140s, students that would have been flatly denied admission at the same school 4 or 5 years ago. And of course, it is the bottom 24% of the class, those with the weakest entrance credentials, who are most likely to struggle in law school and fail the bar. That is why several schools that appeared not to have lowered their admissions standards, or barely lowered their standards (since they were reporting the same or similar LSAT profiles at the 25th, 50th and 75th percentiles) saw their bar pass rates drop considerably this past summer - the students in the bottom 24% were much weaker.
The Bloomberg article also reports that 20 of the top 22 ranked law schools dropped their LSAT scores at the 25th percentile between 2010 and 2013, and identified Emory University as experiencing the biggest drop, at 9 points. The article lists the twenty schools with the biggest drop in points and this includes several prestigious schools, including Georgetown, Northwestern, UC Hastings, Brooklyn, Pepperdine and American, all with drops of 5 points, and Illinois, Villanova and Arizona, each with a 6 point drop. The article claims that Emory’s 9 point drop represents a 5 percent drop, but this is completely inaccurate. (The author of the Bloomberg piece seems to have simply divided 9 by 180 to get 5%, perhaps not realizing that the LSAT range is 120 to 180.) What the 9 point drop really means is that Emory’s 25th percentile dropped from 166 (93.2%) to 157 (70.8%). This is actually a 22.4 percentile drop. On the one hand, this is a very significant decline. On the other hand, students at the 70.8% percentile on the LSAT still have very high aptitude for the study of law and are at minimal risk of academic attrition or failing the bar, so this drop is not anything to be particularly concerned about, except from a prestige standpoint. The 5 point drops at all of the schools mentioned above are also not very alarming, breaking down as follows: Georgetown 168 to 163 (95.8% to 87.7%), Northwestern 166 to 161 (93.2% to 83.0%), Brooklyn 162-157 (85.3 to 70.8%), Hastings 160-155 (80.3% to 63.4%) Pepperdine 159 to 154 (77.2% to 60.2%), American 158 to 153 (73.7% to 56.0%), Illinois 163 to 157 (87.7% to 70.8%), Arizona 161 to 155 (83.0% to 63.4%) and Villanova, 159 to 153 (77.2% to 56.0%).
What is truly alarming about the NCBE report is not the declines at top schools, but the massive declines in the 25th percentile at many bottom tier schools, including Charlotte School of Law, Suffolk and Arizona Summit with 7 point drops, Valparaiso, Faulkner, Western New England, New England School of Law and Ave Maria with 6 point drops and Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, Whittier, Pace, Capital, Charleston, Florida Coastal, and Dayton all with 5 point drops. The biggest drop in terms of LSAT percentile score between 2010 and 2013 was actually not at Emory, but at Suffolk. Their 25th percentile went from 152 to 145, a drop from 51.6% on the LSAT to 26.7%, a 24.9% decline. And the most alarming drops were at Charlotte School of Law, Arizona Summit, Florida Coastal, Valparaiso and Ave Maria, all of which dropped their bottom 25th percentile LSAT to 141 in 2013 or 15.8% on the LSAT. (Texas Southern and Thomas Cooley were also at 141 in 2013 but didn’t have to drop as far to get there.) Dishonorable mention goes to Faulkner University with a 25th percentile at 142 or 18.1%.
Looking at the recently released ABA Standard 509 reports for 2014, several of these bottom-feeding schools have continued to lower their standards into the abyss. Suffolk, for example, continued their downward spiral and came in at 143, joining Texas Southern and Thomas Cooley, who both rebounded somewhat this year to 143, up two points. Faulkner held the line at 142 this year, while Valparaiso held steady at 141. But other schools that could ill afford to lower their standards any further, did so anyway. The 2014 25th percentile Hall of Shame: tied for third place, Arizona Summit and Florida Coastal School of Law, down one point to 140 (13.4%); in second place, Ave Maria, down two points to 139 (11.6%); and our Grand Prize Winner (drum roll please) - Charlotte School of Law, down 3 points at 138, cracking the vaunted 10th percentile barrier at 9.7%!
And the really scary thing? 24% of students at these schools may be even lower. That’s the real story that Bloomberg Businessweek simply missed.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 1/02/15, there are 116,256 fall 2015 applications submitted by 17,506 applicants. Applicants are down 9.0% and applications are down 11.1% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 35% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, we'll have approximately 50,017 total applicants for the class entering in fall 2015.
Law faculty buyout offers have become pretty common, so in one sense LSU Law's offer to buy out faculty over age 65 doesn't raise any eyebrows. What was interesting, however, was the Chancellor's comment that the offer gives faculty the chance to retire "with dignity and positive feelings about the law school." Was there another less dignified retirement option on the table?
The University of Tulsa has just named Lyn Entzeroth the new dean of their law school. Cribbing now from the University of Tulsa's press release
Known internationally for her expertise on capital punishment, Entzeroth has been a TU Law faculty member since 2002. She currently serves as associate dean for academic affairs, a post she has held since 2012. Before that, she was associate dean for faculty development from 2007 to 2009.
"I am deeply honored to be part of The University of Tulsa and the College of Law. I have been privileged to work with outstanding students, wonderful colleagues and a tremendous university community," Entzeroth said. "I look forward to serving as dean and continuing the College of Law's trajectory of providing an excellent program of legal education."
I had the pleasure of being back in Tulsa for the first time in about a decade last month; the city looks fabulous. I was so happy to see how much development there's been, including in my old stomping grounds of Greenwood. And the University, too, is riding a wave of optimism and building. These are exciting times in Tulsa and at the University. Congratulations to Dean Entzeroth and the University of Tulsa!
I've previously blogged about law school tuition wars in Philadelphia. You can read those posts here and here. I've noted that underneath much of the broad-stroke reporting about law school enrollment and tuition are a variety of local markets and local stories. This is the local market I know best.
Again this year, it appears that, for applicants with moderately strong predictors, Philadelphia law schools offer among the lowest net tuitions in the country. Scholarship competition in Philly is fierce.
But as this news story indicates, the Philly schools are also bringing down class size. Overall, the six Philly area law schools have contracted 1L class size by 35% since 2009-10. This greatly exceeds the national decline of just under 28%. The reason parallels the explanation for such aggressive discounting in the market: every law school and every university wants to maintain quality. Is that because of US News? Is it for bar pass rates? Is it for reputation? Is it because it's the right thing to do, given the job market? Is it because all the schools are non-profits? Or all of the above?
And particular kudos is due to Widener University, which - without any US News stake (since they are unranked) - nonethess chose to shrink class size rather than seriously reduce student quality. That was both a good choice and the right choice, but far from a foregone conclusion given the decisions of other law schools around the country.
This chart of Philly school first year enrollment is from the Philadelphia Biz Journal article:
When I visited Florida Coastal last spring for my Dean interview, my prescription to turn the school around was drastic. I told them they should immediately rescind offers of admission and refund deposits and application fees for all students with an LSAT of 144 and below, and refuse to admit any more students at 144 and below. As readers of this blog well know, the response of the school’s president was to eject me from the campus.
With the release of the 2014 Standard 509 Information reports, it is now clear that my hope that InfiLaw might be willing to consider reversing their dramatic and utterly irresponsible downward admissions trajectory was a fantasy, because just when you thought they couldn’t possibly sink any lower, they have. As I have noted in previous posts, FCSL had gone from an acceptable 153/150/147 in 2008 and 2009 all the way to an appallingly low 148/144/141 in 2013. This year, they have dropped across the board and are now down to an abysmal 147/143/140 for the 424 students who matriculated in 2014. In five years, what used to be their 25th percentile (147) is now their 75th percentile. And for those who think a 7 point drop (from 147 to 140) doesn’t sound all that significant, trust me, it is. A 147 is in the 33rd percentile, whereas a 140 is in the 13th percentile, a 20 percentile drop. And just in case you might be thinking that FCSL is taking people with low LSAT’s but high grades, they aren’t. The GPAs are also very low, with a median of 2.93. For reference, in 2006, the average college GPA was 3.11 and that number has likely continued to rise.
If FCSL had heeded my advice, well over half of the students who enrolled this fall would not have been admitted. The school's profits would be down, and undoubtedly they would have had to lay off many staff and faculty, but at least they would have been on a path to sustainability, and maybe even respectability. Instead, they have done everything in their power to make themselves a national laughingstock.
The only good news for FCSL is that their numbers aren’t quite as atrocious as their sister school, Charlotte School of Law. Charlotte matriculated even more students than Florida Coastal in 2014, 446 of them, with even lower entrance credentials. At 146/142/138 with a median GPA of 2.83, Charlotte has now officially admitted the least capable law school class of any significant size at an ABA-accredited school in U.S. history. Charlotte's numbers dropped even more dramatically across the board from 2013 when they were 149/144/141. Their part-time division, which at 127 students is larger than their cellar-dweller rival Ave Maria’s entering class, is shockingly weak, with a group profile of 142/138/136. That means they have 35 students in the evening division who come from the bottom 7% of LSAT takers. This is absolutely unconscionable.
The third law school in InfiLaw’s stable, Arizona Summit, had slightly higher, but still atrocious numbers, matriculating at least 131 students with an LSAT of 144 or below in 2014.
As I and others have noted, many law schools have lowered their standards and there are several with historically weak classes this year, with numbers that would have been unthinkable just 3 or 4 years ago. Ave Maria, Western Michigan Thomas Cooley, Thomas Jefferson, Faulkner, Southern, Texas Southern, Western New England, and Barry (full disclosure - I was on the Barry faculty from 2010-2, but never had anything to do with admissions) all have entering classes where their 75% percentile is below 150. But among these, only InfiLaw is making huge profits off of totally unqualified students, and that puts InfiLaw in a class (low) by itself.
If InfiLaw's management believes that they are meeting ABA Standard 501(b) (“A law school shall not admit applicants who do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its educational program and being admitted to the bar”) by admitting scores of students from the bottom 10% of LSAT takers, they are not only deceiving the students, they are deluding themselves. What seems far more likely is that they know quite well that these students have little chance of graduating (unless they also significantly lower their performance standards) and passing the bar.
InfiLaw should be promptly and thoroughly investigated not only by the ABA and Department of Education but by the Higher Education Commissions in the states where they operate and the Consumer Protection Divisions of the Florida, North Carolina and Arizona State Attorney Generals' Offices, and/or DoJ. They must not be permitted to continue to operate in this disgraceful manner.
The LSAC is reporting that "As of 12/12/14, there are 88,926 fall 2015 applications submitted by 13,816 applicants. Applicants are down 9.1% and applications are down 10.5% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 28% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, we'll have approximately 49,342 total applicants for the class entering in fall 2015. The first post in this series is here.
For people inclined to burn time poking around law school admissions data, the ABA's annual treasure trove - 509 reports from every law school - can now be found at the aptly titled abarequireddisclosures.org. My general sense is that most schools have seen a slight decline in admissions predictors as well as a decline in class size. With a few exceptions, schools that pumped up class size did so at a real cost in student quality. And the extent of discounting this fall remains somewhat opaque because the ABA asks schools to conflate scholarships for all three classes. I suspect someone like Jerry Organ will take a swat at this data and give us a richer analysis. It won't be so easy this year, however, because as far as I can tell, the ABA has taken down the Excel sheet that lists data for every school. Researchers will have to pull every school's PDF and load the data.
Separately, Jerry has a preliminary post about law school student tranfer data here. This year's 509 form has much more data on transfer students. I've looked at a couple of the new 509s. Among the big movers, the trend of massive inbound transfers continued this fall - and particularly in D.C. Georgetown brought in 113 transfers, down from 122, with 13 coming from American and 7 from George Mason. GW brought in 97, up from 93, with 54 (?!) coming from American. Meanwhile, American made up for losing 100 students to transfer by bringing in 44 of its own - including 6 each from Baltimore and UDC. That's a rough market for law schools - and I'm guessing that those transferring students are giving up scholarships to move.
This past weekend, the ABA's Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar decided to delay consideration of InfliLaw's application to buy Charleston School of Law until South Carolina's education regulators make a final decision on approving the sale. We have blogged about this deal repeatedly - our last installment of the saga, including with various links to the relevant background, is here.
The LSAC reports that "As of 11/28/14, there are 70,009 fall 2015 applications submitted by 11,415 applicants. Applicants are down 8.5% and applications are down 9.5% from 2014. Last year at this time, we had 23% of the preliminary final applicant count." If this year's applicants follow last year's pattern, we'll have approximately 49,630 total applicants for the class entering in fall 2015. (You may recall that we had approximately 54,527 applicants for fall 2014.) I expect we'll have the final 2014 first year enrollment data soon. Dan Filler has some historical data on the first year enrollment from 1964 to 2012 here. I link to some more comprehensive data (going back to the 1940s) here.