from the first-kill-all-the-lawyers dept.
Elizabeth Olson reports at the NYT that financially wobbly law schools face plunging enrollment, strenuous resistance to six-figure student debt and the lack of job guarantees — in addition to the need to balance their battered budgets. Nine months after graduating, only 57 percent of the 2013 class had full-time jobs that required passing the bar. Law schools are left in the unenviable position of trying to allay students’ fears that they will not be able to find a job that pays enough to repay $150,000 to $200,000 in education loans. With the declining interest, law schools have been working hard behind the scenes to trim their operations and to expand their offerings of joint degrees in, say, law and medicine. Still they are trying to avoid wholesale cuts in faculty or degrees, steps that would publicly eviscerate their business model and reputation. “I don’t get how the math adds up for the number of schools and the number of students,” says Professor Rodriguez of Northwestern, who is also president of the Association of American Law Schools. “We all know it’s happening, and we are all taking steps that urgent, not desperate, times call for.”
The history of another graduate school bust suggests what may be in store for the nation's 204 ABA accredited law schools. After peaking in 1979, dental-school enrollments precipitously collapsed (the reasons why included “improved dental health from fluoridation, reductions in federal funding, high tuition costs and debt loads,” among others). By the mid-1980s, they were down by about one-third. Then, over the next several years, six private universities closed their dental schools, including Emory University and Georgetown University, which had been the largest program in the country. Given there were only about 60 dental schools to begin with, this amounted to a pretty enormous bust. "The point is that law schools are facing similar pressures," says Jordan Weissmann. "Many institutions opened law schools precisely because they were supposed to be cash cows and won’t be particularly psyched to suddenly start subsidizing them. "