Search the Lounge


« Dean Allard of Brooklyn Law on Reducing Tuition | Main | Berger on The Rhetoric of Constitutional Absolutism »

June 25, 2014


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


It seems to me that law schools could close up shop for the next three years and there'd still be enough unemployed law grads to fill positions. This article also conveniently forgets to mention the cost of getting a law degree. It is commonplace for students to take out $200k+ in loans for their "presTTTigious legal education."

When I filled out my loan information last week the federal loan calculator told me I should make at least $223,000/yr in order for my debts to be a "low burden." I have a 2/3 scholarship to the school I'm attending....You are gambling with your life and the life of your future family when you attend law school.

Steven Freedman (KU Law)

@Brian. You need $223,000 to manage a $200K student debt? Balderdash. Even with the most onerous repayment option, the standard ten year repayment plan, the payments would "only" be $2,310 per month, or $27,720 per year. You'd have to be really terrible with finances if you couldn't manage a $2,310 per month loan repayment while earning $223,000 per year.

And that's the worst case scenario, where the borrower inexplicably did not extend the loans to 30 years or enter a loan repayment program. Run the loan calculator available at and see the different options available to borrowers. I used your example of someone with $200,000 in debt, inputting $63,000 in direct unsubsidized loans (6.21%) and $137,000 in grad plus loans (7.21%) and found that the borrower in PAYE would pay between $357 and $969 per month depending on their income. You certainly do not need to be pulling in 223K to make those payments.


PAYE won't be around forever. It is foolish to use it to calculate payments.


I agree with JayA. Law faculty, don't you read the news reports? Politicians of all political stripes are looking to change funding programs. These changes will happen in the next five years.

Steven Freedman (KU Law)

You're right that there may be changes to the program, but most proposals are for improving the program for borrowers, not making it worse.

The most recent change to PAYE occurred just two weeks ago, when Obama expanded PAYE retroactively to borrowers who had borrowed prior to the eligibility period. Senator Warren has a proposal to allow borrowers to refinance their loans. And there are many calls to lower the interest rates and origination fees. While it's true that some are advocating for a less generous program, I don't know of any (serious) proposal that would eliminate or significantly curtail loan repayment programs.

[Note: Obama did propose capping the public service loan forgiveness after ten years, but my understanding is that borrowers could still have the remaining balance forgiven after twenty years. Even capped at $57,000, that's still a very generous benefit.]


These articles are pessimistic about law school, not optimistic.

1. They tell the snowflakes that they're not special but commodities. Less competition means you might get a job. Less competition means that someone might buy your completely fungible skillset just as they might buy your corn, coffee, rice, etc.

2. It highlights the fact that law is a mature, shrinking career.

3. 2018 is a fine time to become a lawyer, butcher, baker, candle maker provided that not too many others do as well.

4. These stories imply that law schools historically have not cared a whip about student outcomes and were all too happy to over produce by 25 to 35 percent so long as the loan checks cleared.

5. These articles highlight that the market for entry level law grads is about 30 to 36,000 per year- not the 40k plus of the last decade. That's not bad news, but it is a markedly different pitch than "all enroll now, never been a better time to go!"

To JoJo


Law schools did not decide to overproduce by 25 to 35 percent. Each law school produces its number of students, and they would each be happy if their competitors produced fewer.


to Jojo,

Malarkey! The current mess is not some innocent blip. Fault may be diffuse, but it runs to all the schools and to the ABA. It's no mystery how we got here. It was the grow and cash loan checks mantra that paid no attention to the collective havoc wrought by your conduct. The same is true of the housing crisis. You are all at fault here.

The profession is still in tatters. I know, personally, scores of fine young lawyers with 2 to 10 years of experience who can't break $60,000. Think about that. And before someone has the gall to mention household us income data, know that almost all of these individuals have student debt loads north of $50,000.


It's interesting how the rejoinder to a factually sound article looking at national trends consists of meaningless anecdotes (Jojo knows some lawyers who aren't making a lot of money--"scores" of them in fact--yeah, right). Give it a rest, this routine has grown tired. There was a big correction in the law school market and now it's almost over. You'll have to find a new hobby.


To JoJo-

90% of law schools are regional and feed their students into local markets. When there are only 150 jobs likely to be available in that local market per year, and the law school enrolls 200 people, they are overproducing graduates by 33%. Just about every non-elite law school does this to varying degrees.


"You'd have to be really terrible with finances if you couldn't manage a $2,310 per month loan repayment while earning $223,000 per year."

How many students from the 2012 class at your school made $223,000/year? How many made $50,000/year. Which was more common? Take home pay on a salary of $50k is roughly $3,000/month. That leaves $690/month for our hypothetical student to pay for housing, transportation, health insurance, food, car insurance, fuel, phone, retirement, savings, and all the other necessities of adult life. How many prospective law students would attend law school knowing that there is a substantial likelihood will end up in this position?



This isn't a hobby. I view it as a moral cause as do so many others.

And as far as anecdotes go, the aggregate data are only reliable now because of us, the reformers. In addition, I accept the data and believe that the US legal market can support, long term, 30 to 36,000 grads per year. Anon, I assume we can count on you to push for further data disclosure and to repudiate law faculty who take pot shots at the existing 9 month data with one spurious argument or another, such as Barros's anecdotes?

Steven Freedman (KU Law)


How many students from KU Law graduated in 2012 with $200,000 in law school debt? Zero.

As for your example of someone making $50,000 per year, that student should enroll in PAYE.

Someone enrolled with PAYE with $200,000 in debt making $50,000 per year would have monthly loan repayments of $184 per month. That's very manageable.

Don't believe me? Try it for yourself at

terry malloy

Prof. Freedman,

Do you have any moral qualms with saddling the taxpayer with the tuition debt law school students?

As I see PAYE, (1) the school takes the money up front,(2) the student gets the debt, (3) student doesn't get a good job, and starts making all sorts of perverse economic decisions to stay in PAYE (4) the government (taxpayer), by bailing out the student, bails out the law school.

Doesn't seem fair.

el duderino


In addtion, that principal balance will have ballooned between $300k-400k while the individual is on PAYE, and once forgiven after 20 years, it will be treated as taxable income and will force many into a mid-life bankruptcy. Nothing like working hard for 20 years only to have nothing to show for it. PAYE is not the solution; it's helping to exacerbate the problem.


Yes, Prof. Freedman, I agree with Terry. Even if PAYE sticks around, which I still think is unlikely, I'd feel uncomfortable as a professor selling a product that doesn't result in a job sufficient to service the debt and then lean on the government and taxpayers to prop up my wonderful lifestyle and salary.

terry malloy

Agreed, his dudeness,

The math of the principal increase during PAYE is very troubling.

Also, this program is essentially at the largess of a generally incompetent and rapacious government.

I wouldn't be surprised if the PAYE program doesn't last long enough for people using the program to face the taxable forgiveness issue.

But without those complications: is it moral for a law school, and law professors, to pass the high cost of law school on to taxpayers through the PAYE program?



You insolent lawyer. Obviously you hate academics. How can you question the price we charge to train students to think like lawyers (notwithstanding the fact that they will not be adequately prepared to pass the bar without paying for a bar prep class). Our six figure professional school is versatile, and we will not be questioned by the practicing bar over our methods.


The law academy


Jilly from Philly, Terry Mallow, JoJo -

Where do you get a market demand for circa 36,000 p.a. new law graduates? The BLS predicted around 22,000 p.a. Total (allowing for replacing retiring lawyers) in 2012, which in late 2013 they lowered to around 19,650 for the following decade. That is a little more than half 36,000.

Steven Freedman (KU Law)

@ Terry. I think your accusation is better directed towards the folks who passed the law enabling PAYE. As for moral qualms, I might have one if I didn't tell someone with student debt to look into federal loan repayment programs.



I have moral qualms about it even if Freedman doesn't. I can't wait until 30 schools close and bankruptcy is available to student debtors. Our system is insane, and the complete inability of the beneficiaries of the scam to acknowledge any responsibility for it is symptomatic of what's wrong with public policy today. The "don't fault me for the mess, don't blame me for taking the bailout" attitude really ticks me off. Id have more respect if the schools/banksters just were honest about it. "I'm getting mine while I can," is loathesome but refreshingly honest.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad