Site Update: ‘Law School Tuition Data Going Back to 1996’…

…Can be found on the “LAW SCHOOL COST DATA (1996-)” page.

Formerly called ,”Tuition Increases at All ABA Law Schools (1999-),” or something like that, I’ve revised this site’s renowned tuition data page. Biggest changes include:

  • Tuition data for each law school going back to 1996 and up to 2013
  • Percentages of full-time students paying full tuition at each law school
  • Percentages of full-time students receiving the median grant or more at each law school (as stated in the Official Guide)
  • Tuition levels discounted by the median grant at private law schools that aren’t Brigham Young
  • A bunch of carefully sculpted dispersion charts and tables showing changes in law school tuition since 1985 or 1996 with the annual Stafford loan limit
  • And no tuition projections. I know they were popular. I know they gave me easy page views, but I don’t think any forward projection based on past data will be accurate anymore given that tuition increases are slowing down now. Also, the necessary methodology page was truly boring to write, and if anything, you folks deserve more “No Bubble, Just ROCK!!!” posts than me being bored on my own blog.

Don’t worry though, the URL is the same as before, so anyone linking to it will find the same information.

Tracking this kind of information on the back end is becoming harder as law schools (a) are socialized by public universities (meaning a change in status), (b) change their names (sometimes to sound more “hashtaggy”), and (c) contemplate splitting into multiple campuses. I’m sure consolidations are on the way as well. As it is, gathering their exact, full names was easily the most tedious aspect of this update. Easily.

Like, law schools, if you can hear me, please put your complete, full name on your main pages. Not in logos, and definitely not ending in “[law school name] Law” as though your school’s name is in fact the title of a law. To pick on one example, when I read “Wayne Law,” I thought about The Wonder Years taking place in a Michigan law school with Fred Savage, Jason Hervey, and Danica McKellar, the awesomest mathematician alive.

Which reminds me: Law schools, I’m into women as much as the next gynephile, but you do realize you put a lot of women on your main pages. There’s a certain … lack of originality to seeing attractive young women on the law school Web sites.

Wait, what am I complaining about? Strike that.

Okay, I should add—and this is very, very, very important—because the data page is so long (which is by design and I have no interest in changing) it doesn’t load well in Mozilla Firefox. If you scroll down far enough, at some point the screen turns black and the numbers are unreadable. It doesn’t crash the browser, but it doesn’t make the site easy to read. It does, however, work in Google Chrome. I don’t know if it works well on other browsers. Frankly, I don’t care at this point. Chrome is free; I prefer Firefox; whatever; we’re done here.

No Bubble, Just ROCK!!! Vol. 8: 1997 Edition

Mellow is the Bubble

Still working on that ABA task force report, but a few weeks ago when I reminded you all that back in 1997 you were listening to the likes of Barbra Streisand, LeAnn Rimes,Shania Twain, and Chumbawamba, you passionately denied me. One of you went so far as to write:

I’m waiting for the “No Bubble – Just Rock” post that graces us with Shania Twain. I suspect that has about as much chance happening as the admins have of getting 40,000 lemmings to sit for the LSAT again.

Taking this as a challenge, I listened to Come on Over the following Saturday morning. Yeah, 40,000 LSATs isn’t worth subjecting you lost souls to the Nice Guyism of,  “If You Wanna Touch Her, Ask!”

Instead, I looked through my meager collection of 1997 music and found that I already used many of the bands in earlier NBJRs. Strange coincidence, I guess. So, here’s what I came up with.

We have the Sea and Cake, which I only started listening to a month ago.

Then Sleater-Kinney

…And what I was listening to at the time, the Makers:

How Much Is the Land in America Worth? (Redux)

The land-taxers I know are pleased with Wonkblog’s decision to hand “land value taxation” its coveted “most worthwhile yet hopeless policy crusade of the year” award for 2013. I guess the land value taxation pilot program Connecticut approved last June isn’t good enough. However, Wonkblog courteously acknowledged Mason Gaffney’s work on the subject.

Aside from linking to the Slate post on the topic that I discussed back in October, Wonkblog linked to another one from December in which Matthew Yglesias informs us that his correspondents told him that the Federal Reserve’s Flow of Funds report contains enough data to calculate the value of privately held land in the U.S. The number? $14.488 trillion. He concludes:

So who cares? Well, you should care. This number is high enough that it tends to confirm that [sic] view that taxation of land and other natural resources, supplemented by pollution fees and things like congestion charges could replace all taxes on labor and investment and still fund an ample welfare state and public sector.

Lamentably, Yglesias doesn’t show his readers why $14.5 trillion in land value “tends to confirm that view that taxation of land and other natural resources … could replace all taxes on labor and investment.” Indeed, his statement implies that the only thing standing between handing every American a citizen’s dividend equivalent to median household income is a posse of mustachioed landowners.

Alas, this is not how land value taxes work, but Yglesias’ vague editorial provides an opportunity to discuss the difference between “land value” and “land rent.” Land rent is the annual amount one pays to use land. Land value is the purchase price of real estate absent improvements. Land rent is like annual income; land value is like lifetime income once you’ve accounted for your JD premium. The ratio of land rent to land value is the “capitalization rate,” a percentage that differs among cities. Basically, it’s the discount rate; the higher it is, the lower the land value.

When Georgists talk about taxing land rent, the calculation is easy: Just multiply the rental value by the percent to be taxed. Let’s say we have a parcel that rents at $100,000 annually. Divided by a capitalization rate of 5 percent, its land value is $2 million. If we want to tax 80 percent of the land rent, we get $80,000 in land rent tax. Easy-peasey.

Now, like the typical Slate reader you’re thinking, “Why not tax land values instead? Wouldn’t an 80 percent tax on that yield $1.6 million?” And it’d be a good question—two even. The reason is that the amount taxed gets subtracted from the rental value, so as the land rent tax goes up, the land value drops. The rental value, however, remains the same. Here’s the equation:

Land Value = (Rental Value ­– Tax Amount) / Capitalization Rate

So taxing $80,000 from our parcel leads to a net rental value of $20,000 divided by a 5 percent capitalization rate and we get a land value of $400,000, not $2 million. If we want to express the land value tax as a percentage, then we modify the equation:

Land Value = Rental Value / (Capitalization Rate + LVT Rate)

…And then solve for the land value tax rate. In our case, it’s a 20 percent land tax on a $400,000 parcel, not an 80 percent tax on a $2 million parcel. Got it? Good.

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So we have a $14.488 trillion chunk of land that Yglesias believes tends to confirm the view that land taxes can finance an ample welfare state and public sector. Unfortunately, he gives readers neither his estimate of the land’s rental value nor that of the capitalization rate he used to close the accounting identity detailed above.

I can help. I’ll assume a generously low capitalization rate, 3.88 percent, the same as the current yield on 30-year T-bills (the aforementioned Gaffney recently demonstrated that wealthy people get much lower discount rates than poor people). We get a mere $562.1 billion in taxable land rent, which isn’t even enough to cover the federal deficit.

Now’s the part where Slate readers might question why Yglesias thinks this is sufficient to finance an ample welfare state and public sector, but they wouldn’t realize that government at all levels collected about $4.3 trillion in taxes in 2012. Add that back to annual GDP and we have $21.1 trillion to work with. How much of that is land rent? Again, we’ll have to fill in the annual rental value because Yglesias does not. Let’s say it’s only 20 percent, and we get $4.2 trillion in taxable land rent and at our 3.88 percent capitalization rate, $108 trillion in pretax land value.

You can tweak the capitalization rate and the percent of land rent as a share of GDP, but I think 20 percent is too low, if only because by the time you tax the land value down to $14.5 trillion as we do now, governments get less revenue than under the current tax system. This is implausible. Raise the percentage of GDP that goes to land rent to 30 percent, and you have well over the $5.7 trillion U.S. governments currently spend. Anything more is Hanukkah.

Of course, none of these calculations account for the increases to national income by recovering the deadweight losses imposed by our current tax system or the costs of administering it. Nor do we know if the Fed’s assessments undervalue land, which I—as does Gaffney—bet they do because hiding wealth in land is a time-honored practice. So yes, we should be confident that there’s enough land value (plus other rents, like spectrum rights, mineral rights, IP rights, etc.) to finance government and the welfare state, but a $14.488 trillion land value assessment alone is insufficient to prove it.

‘Accreditation Reform Unlikely to Change Legal Education’ on the Am Law Daily

Accreditation Reform Unlikely to Change Legal Education

I chose not to comment on the renewed attack on law professors’ scholarship in The New York Times as it wasn’t germane to my article. Sure, a few statements from judges and lawyers isn’t a scientific analysis of journal articles’ value, but as I see it, the law of diminishing returns should tell us that adding 30%+ more full-time, non-clinical, journal-article-writing instructors to law schools over 15 years can’t really add much social utility if the graduates can’t get jobs.

So… How many people are dressing up as Sister Ray for Halloween?

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The Night Disco Died

Disco Demolition Night, Comiskey Park, Chicago, July 12, 1979.

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Here are some primary sources for additional research.

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Carmen Sandiego Was Killed in a Drone Strike

…And a generation of Americans lost its innocence.

Procrastination is dangerous, but productive procrastination is deadly. Last week, I started killing time by testing my knowledge of geography because I was embarrassed that I didn’t know all the countries in Europe. Now I do, and so I started working on Africa, something I never thought I’d know.

Naturally I should’ve realized where all this studying would lead me: Throwing the original Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? disk images into an Apple II emulator.

I quickly found that the game, published in 1985, is charmingly anachronistic:

01

…So anachronistic, in fact, that it’s been lapped by history, given that the workers recently placed the spire on top of the new World Trade Center.

02

03

Then there are little facts of monetary policy that have changed.

04

…And a bunch of countries that aren’t around anymore for various reasons.

05

So blinded was I by nostalgia that it didn’t occur to me that the game wouldn’t be timeless like other Brøderbund classics like Lode Runner. Ironically, Carmen Sandiego‘s world had been largely unchanged since World War II. More changes occurred in the few decades after the game appeared than before. Perhaps its liberal internationalism captured the tone of the waning years of the Cold War.

In retrospect, Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? is not a particularly good pedagogical tool for teaching geography. Testing knowledge, yes; teaching, no. Either you know factoids like like borders, flags, and currencies, or you don’t. A video game like Carmen Sandiego, which is structured as a multiple-choice test, isn’t the most efficient way to transmit that kind of information. Brute-force fill-in-the-blank tests are probably better. Maybe Carmen Sandiego was also a bellwether for the NCLB-style education system that would appear 15 years later: Fill-in-the-blank memorization is sterile and boring, but Carmen Sandiego is not.

All of which is disappointing because it’s a very fun game. The titular character’s Latin name hints at the exotic, like, you hear “Carmen Sandiego” and South America instantly pops into your mind. No one would ever think she was from Utica.

I didn’t play the original that much, but I did have its sequels Where in the U.S.A. and Where in Time. I recall them both being very hard because, as I said, you either know a lot about the 50 states and world history or you don’t, and as a 10-year-old I needed the aid of family members or the massive encyclopedias that weighed down the games’ boxes to make sense of where Narrangasett was. I certainly wouldn’t’ve known that “Henry the Navigator” means 15th century Portugal. History on top of geography is really hard when you haven’t even been through a middle school World Studies course.

The one thing the series did teach me had nothing whatsoever to do with geography or history: due process. If you failed to obtain a warrant before apprehending the criminal, or you obtained one for the wrong person, you lost, leaving me to yell at the screen, But she stole the Grand Canyon! The Grand Canyon!!

Of course, nowadays warrants are anachronistic too, so the next title in the series should be Where in the War on Terror Is Carmen Sandiego? which makes sense given that she and her gang have always been non-state actors (perhaps the original was prescient and not liberal internationalist?). The new version would include the following updates:

  • No warrants
  • Enemy combatants instead of criminals
  • Drone strikes in lieu of arrests
  • Extrajudicial killing of citizens
  • No need for gumshoe investigating (since everyone’s phones are tapped anyway)

The only additional challenge for the player would be the extra long travel times because you’d need to wait in line longer at the airport scanners.

Until then, there’s this:

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Give Credit Where Due

Rachel M. Zahorsky, “Law School Closings and Changes to Student Loan Bankruptcy Laws May Be Ahead, Says Former Dean,” ABA Journal.

Former law school dean at Nebraska and Houston, Nancy Rapoport, favors bankruptcy reform for student debtors. This is important because law professors are usually more interested in discussing the need for reforming legal education for new students than addressing the debt problems of recent (and not-so-recent) graduates, to say nothing of current students. I’m not sure if this is because they think the issue is simple—that everyone should realize the debt should be dischargeable or if they think this isn’t their problem. The ABA, for its part, frequently proclaims “IBR for everyone,” and hopes that the government doesn’t notice how much law schools cost it.

A few thoughts:

(1)  I haven’t done comprehensive research, but there have been some cases in which people were able to discharge their student loans despite the “undue hardship” exception, contrary to the single technical case Rapoport mentions. That doesn’t mean it’s readily doable, but it’s either making a gamble on filing an adversary proceeding or a scorched earth strategy of sequential Chapter 13 filings. The tougher call is advocating for bankruptcy reform for those who are up to their eyeballs in debt but are still able to pay on it without serious reduction in their living standards. I suppose we’re fortunate we don’t have to worry about that? Not much of a benefit if you ask me.

(2)  I like how she puts it, “Even if [the graduate employment statistics] were true at the time, they aren’t now.” Sure, the statistics probably pass internal and external validity tests, but are they relevant to what applicants want to know? I’d say no.

(3)  I like how the first day of the American Bankruptcy Institute’s meeting on reforming Chapter 11 included Congresspeople sounding alarms on student debt. How many corporations have education debt?

(4)  Rapoport believes that only a few schools at the bottom of the hierarchy will close. I think she bases this on what information the applicants get, which suggests that many schools that should close won’t.

(5)  This passage: “You have to balance that against- This is the government’s money for the most part; they really like getting paid back, and they don’t want to create a moral hazard where people- What used to happen is you’d go to medical school and you’d get $400,000 of debt, you file for Chapter 7 and you walk off clean. They don’t want that anymore, but there has to be a happy medium, and I keep thinking of the show Northern Exposure, where the doctors go into these underserved areas, and they work off their debt. If there were a way to work off the debt for the government, maybe that’s a compromise, but what’s not viable anymore from any perspective, is going to be people running around with this kind of debt that will haunt them for the rest of their natural lives.”

If the government wants to play private sector bank it must play by private sector rules. When I max out a credit card gambling in Las Vegas, or if I mismanage a company into the ground, the law says to my creditors that they’re sophisticated parties and they should’ve known better than to loan me money, not to mention that it might not be my fault that I may’ve lost the ability to pay down the debt. However, this is America, where we love our banks so much that we don’t think they should be burdened with those pesky things that make capitalism work, like “risk.” Thus, if you don’t want medical students to discharge $400,000 in student loan debt, don’t lend it to them. Now, that hasn’t happened since the 1970s, it certainly wasn’t six figures of debt, and it was exceedingly rare. Rapoport should’ve mentioned that.

As for Rapoport’s happy medium (Northern Exposure, great show), rural America doesn’t require hundreds of thousands of lawyers. Moreover, those lawyers need to be paid for their work. Even if we subsidize legal aid—and we should!—that’s not going to put the government that much further ahead.

Finally, too often we think of solutions for excessive student debt, specifically government debt, as a free lunch to debtors. We have to come up with a “fair solution!” Both sides must compromise! Aside from what I said above about government reaping private sector benefits without paying the costs, the problem is that this is still too narrowly construed. Government’s purpose is to maximize national income, not revenue. When people claim that the government is “making money on student loans,” even if we assume its accounting rules work (and I don’t, nor does the CBO), it’s not! Really! If the government borrows at 0.5% and lends at 3.4% or 6.8%, the interest is money that’s not spent in the real economy, which means people aren’t employed, and—watch this—they don’t pay income taxes. There’s a real sacrifice here, trading revenue for national income, and it’s not worth making. That doesn’t mean the government should cancel all debts it’s owed, not that doing so would reduce any non-debtor’s standard of living one bit, but it does mean that these compromise solutions and happy media aren’t genuine compromises.

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