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February 04, 2013


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Here's an interesting article discussing the tuition arms race and GWU's rise to the highest priced college in the country under its former President:

"It was as simple as raising the price and upgrading the packaging to create the illusion of quality. Trachtenberg gambled that prospective students would see costly tuition as a sign of quality, and he was right. “People equate price with the value of their education,” he says"

Concerned Lawyer

The WaPo editorial board is assuming facts that David Segal made known two years ago: that legal education is saddling law students with meagre prospects of working as a lawyer with 20K - 25K in debt. Segal's article confirmed the suspicions of those of us who review applicant resumes that most students from tier 3 and tier 4 schools were not finding any work. Finally, some faculty who initially dismissed this fact are now (very reluctantly) facing up to it.

Personally, I don't think the ABA is up to the task of right sizing incoming classes to where they need to be (roughly 25K). Law school deans, however, are another matter. The problem, of course, is that you do not become dean by having very frank conversations with faculty about cutting costs. Ultimately, I suspect the market will force that hard conversation as we now see that prospective students are voting with their feet.


Concerned Lawyer -- The 25,000 aspiration is a collective one. No one Dean controls it, and all the Deans are prohibited by antitrust laws from getting together and controlling it.

John Thompson

Yesterday's WaPo editorial, Our Shrinking Law Schools, was notable because - unlike the Times, which likes to frame the legal education crisis as a freestanding outrage - the Post put matters in far better context. The shrinking number of law students both reflects, and portends, a growing crisis in higher education writ large.

Is it really so important for legal education to portray itself as an otherwise noble institution overcome by terrible incentives?

Wonderful. Nobody is to blame; everybody feel good about themselves and what they do. Now, if only legal education would get to fixing its increasingly well-known imbalance of cost and return as if someone were to blame, then maybe the rest of us would be satisfied about viewing legal education in its far better context.


I used to hear the conventional wisdom that the ABA's section on legal education was controlled by deans and professors from the middle and low ranked schools. Was that ever the case? Is it the case today? If so, won't that inhibit the ABA from taking steps in the best interests of the public?


The U.S. Department of Education initially gave the ABA the role of accrediting law schools for purposes of qualifying for federal loans. Apparently many state licensing authorities subsequently decided to use ABA accreditation for purposes of determining a applicant's qualification to sit for the state bar exam. What is relevant for today's discussion is that the DOE authorization prohibited the ABA from considering the impact on the profession of accrediting a school; the ABA is only supposed to consider the quality of the school. That limitation was imposed for antitrust reasons.

In other words, any concerted effort to reduce the size and number of law schools will have to be directed by the Federal Government or the states.

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