Law School Cuts Its Tuition to Zero (and Other 509 Report Errata)

Students at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School were surprised to find their tuition was free for the 2014-15 academic year.

Free Tuition!

Such generosity!

That’s the most amusing error in the law school 509 Information Reports I’ve found thus far. The ABA doesn’t audit the data law schools provide it, so people using them might want to know when it’s obviously incorrect. I’m tallying up the ones I find, but I won’t do so exhaustively. I figure the ABA just runs a program that spits all the data into the reports automatically, so I’ll confine my teasing to the schools for the mistakes.

Atlanta’s John Marshall is one of two law schools that have tuition problems. For those curious, looking on John Marshall’s Web site I get $38,100 in tuition costs, $198 technology fees, $1,340 for health insurance, and $194 in student bar association costs ($39,832 total). This is largely consistent with its charges last year ($39,578).

Another law school with a tuition typo is St. Mary’s, whose 509 report says it charges $33,100 for resident and $33,110 for non-residents, a patent ambiguity that doesn’t make sense for a private law school. Worse, when I look at its Web site, I get $33,010 ($32,340 for tuition, $670 for fees). That’s the number I’m going to go with.

Readers might also be curious about law schools’ enrollment breakdowns. I don’t track the ethnicities of full-time and part-time students, but I did do get their totals as well as the genders and ethnicities of 1Ls, total enrollments, and graduates. These numbers usually add up across the table, but there are a few cases that I’ve found that don’t.

The biggest offender is SUNY-Buffalo, which accidentally totaled its male and female students in its “Other” column (a new addition to the reports this year) instead of the “Total” column. This causes significant arithmetical errors that end up doubling the school’s enrollment over the year before. I have SUNY-Buffalo with 547 full-time students, 10 part-time students, and zero “other” students.

The tables for San Francisco and Minnesota also do not total properly due to problems in the “Other” column. As I have it, San Francisco has 425 full-time students, 102 part-time students, and no “other” students (by enrollment, not gender). Minnesota has 681 full-time students, 17 part-time students, and zero “other” students (ditto).

It’s unclear, but I think most law schools that used the “other” category meant it for gender and enrollment status while these schools had one category but not the other.

Hopefully these errors will be corrected either by the law schools or the ABA.

**********

While I have your attention, I thought I’d spill the beans on where undiscounted tuition costs went this year: pretty much nowhere. The median private law school charged about $200 more than last year in real dollars, but costs are moving up slightly on the very high end while nominal tuition cuts are manifesting at the low end of the scale. I can’t make a clear determination at this point, but anyone thinking that legal education is moving toward a two-tier market—one for cheaper law schools, the other for very expensive prestigious ones—might see this as year 1 for their hypothesis.

Full-Time Law School Tuition Dispersion (Excl. P.R., Constant $)

I suppose now’s the appropriate time to congratulate Columbia for being the first law school to breach the $60,000 mark. 23 others charge more than $50,000 annually, many of them are in U.S. News‘ top 20. In 2010, only three charged so much.

The next chart shows the overall slowdown of tuition cost growth over the last few years and the nominal declines within the lowest quintile.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Increases by Tuition Quintile Mean (Current $)

I haven’t done a full analysis yet, but I think only Iowa has seen any direct correlation between nominal cost cuts and an increase in applications (and that’s a public law school). The rest still saw declines.

Peace out.

The End Is Near for Many Law Schools

…The end, that is, of the matriculant crunch that blights them.

(What, you thought I was going to predict widespread school closings? Haha, no.)

The accelerated (sure surprised me) release of law schools’ Standard 509 Information Reports, aka/fka the Official Guide, allows us to peer into the world of law schools as they are this very semester. Like, you can see them delaying their finals on account of grand jury verdicts … in real time.

No. The first finding is that there were 33,426 full-time law school matriculants this fall, down a paltry 1,247 from 2013. Last year, the drop was 2,621, hence this post’s title. (These figures exclude the three Puerto Rico law schools, which applies throughout this post.) I’d like to take this time to apologize for teasing you on Wednesday with one law school’s 90 percent full-time matriculant decline since 2004.

Part of the matriculant stabilization might be attributable to a slight uptick in acceptance rates.

Dispersion of Full-Time Law School Applicant Acceptance Rates

Click to enlarge

Emphasis on the “might,” for it’s a very slight change in the trend, unlike 2013, but it does correspond to a similar budge in matriculant yields (omitted).

In general, though, the distribution of the matriculant collapse since the last trough years (1999 and 2007) is about the same as last year. I shan’t display that analysis now, but it’s still true that about 10 percent of the law schools account for half the total decline since 2007, which is probably the best comparison and not 2010, which was a peak year.

As for the number of full-time applications, you can see the accelerators are being hit at all levels:

Dispersion of Full-Time Law School Application Growth Rates

This year, about 20 percent of law schools saw a growth in applications. First place goes to Case Western, which rallied from 1,200 applications last year to 1,913 this year, leading to a 46 percent increase in matriculants. Iowa saw a similar growth in its incoming class size after its application count nearly doubled. Penn State also saw some growth. I’ll have to look into the role that nominal tuition cuts play, but maybe they’re more successful than I thought. I just don’t think anyone should expect them to cause a Black Friday rampage by new applicants.

Nevertheless, probably the most interesting story this year is the surge in applications at most of the members of U.S. News and World Report‘s 14 highest-ranked law schools—as well as four of the remaining six of the top twenty. It’s really remarkable. Fourteen of these twenty schools contributed 1.39 percent against the -7.56 percent application growth rate. (Those stats are additive.)

The phenomenon is fascinating because it demonstrates that applicants interpreted a message (from somewhere) as saying that reputable law schools are worth applying to while most of the rest are not. More than even the law school tipping point between late 2009 and early 2010, I can’t recall ever seeing evidence of such discrete thinking on the part of applicants.

An admitted weakness with the LSTB is that it’s not as good at measuring inputs as outcomes, so I can’t tell you whether this behavior is due to a particular article on a news Web site, advice from guidance counselors or others, or some kind of forum. It might be multiple concurrent causes. Regardless, the now-is-the-best-time-to-apply-to-law-school-ever crowd might be able to take credit for directly influencing potential law school applicants’ actions, though I read their advice as telling people that it was also okay to be the number one pick at a respected non-elite institution. Thus, it might not be those writers. Possibly, the applicants, whom I’ll call “surplus applicants,” interpreted those messages more conservatively than their authors intended.

But was “apply to only elite law schools” a successful strategy? My first cut says that it was a waste of time for many surplus applicants because highly ranked law schools are not desperate for applicants with good credentials.

Here’s a table of surplus full-time applications, offers, and matriculations between 2013 and 2014 at the 14 out of 20 U.S. News‘ top law schools that saw application increases.

2014 T20 Surplus Applications Table

Click to enlarge

The odds of getting into one of these schools as a surplus applicant are not as good as the typical applicant was last year, assuming these schools used the same acceptance strategy this year. Only 12 percent of the total were accepted, but the ratio of surplus applications to surplus matriculants is 28, which is much higher than the ratio for all top 20 law schools in 2013 (16-17). Consequently, we can infer that many surplus applicants were rejected.

Of course without the now-is-the-best-time-to-apply-to-law-school-ever message, presumably the number of applications at these schools would have continued to fall or not fall by as much, so it depends on where you think the baseline for the first surplus applicant should be set. Anyway, more research might illuminate the issue, but the pushback in favor of law school appears to have gotten all the benefits it can. Prestigious law schools just aren’t changing their behaviors.

I should also note that some of these schools, such as Georgetown and Columbia, scorned their applicants as they came out of the woodwork. One strategy that might be developing, or, rather, receiving more scrutiny, is prestigious law schools rejecting many applications while accepting transfers instead. If you take a look at Georgetown’s 509 report, you can see that the 113 tranfers it took in (about 6 percent of its 2014 enrollment) came from dozens of schools. The list of origin schools goes on for a page and a half! As growth (decline) in applicants becomes less relevant, focusing on distribution will. My cursory look into the matter has found that some schools have a taste for for-profit law school refugees, e.g. Arizona State from Arizona Summit.

Other oddities I noticed: One, not all highly ranked law schools did so well. UVRollingStonebotchedrApereporting lost 815 full-time applications, and Minnesota lost 751. I could be convinced that these are typos in their thousand digits, but if not it’s peculiar that these two highly regarded schools would contribute -0.4 percent to the -7.6 percent full-time applications decline while their peers did so much better. Two, the University of Chicago found the 20 or so full-time law professors it misplaced last year. Congrats, and let that be a lesson to other law schools that misreport their numbers to the ABA.

So far the 2014-15 academic year has shaped up to be more interesting than I thought it would be. More research on other issues will appear here in time.

Lowering Law School Tuition Mainly Benefits Students, Taxpayers

Gotta be quick, but Brooklyn Law School dean Nicholas Allard writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Lowering Law-School Tuition Benefits Everyone, Not Just the Students,” which deserves comment.

The fact is that the financial model of law schools is broken. Unless the schools do what they can to make legal education more affordable, they will price themselves out of business, contribute to the high cost of legal services that most people need, and widen the gap in access to justice.

The first sentence is true, but the rest is questionable. Many people will not go to law school at any price, but some schools will survive if they slash tuition. However, tuition has little to do with the cost of legal services and access to justice (not the justice of rents to legal educators).

Allard appears to believe that high tuition leads to high debt, which leads to lawyers not taking public interest jobs that pay less then courtroom janitors. It’s odd because two paragraphs later, he mentions Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Pay-As-You-Earn, which falsify his thesis. If highly indebted graduates want to serve the poor, they should be able to under the current loan-repayment framework. Sure, the proposed caps on PSLF would be bad for debtors and are based on the belief that they over-borrowed rather than the schools over-pricing, the government over-lending, or the jobs-underpaying, but graduates do not often pass up public interest in favor of biglaw. Not everyone gets such a choice.

It is a shameful canard that student loans and indebtedness are the cause of high tuition. They are not; they are the symptom. Tuitions at law schools are soaring … because of the way law schools spend money in pursuit of rankings rather than investing in students, education, professional training, and scholarship.

Not sure what Allard means here, but I think it’s the closest I’ve seen to a law school dean rejecting the Bennett hypothesis. Without excessive federal lending, law schools couldn’t raise their costs. It’s the means of the tuition bubble, not the motive and opportunity—if you fancy looking at this like a murder mystery.

With political currents eroding America’s historic and successful support for higher education, we can’t expect anyone else to help. We must do what we can to break this cycle ourselves. By making law school expensive for motivated, talented women and men, we are shortchanging ourselves. In this country, lawyers have played the central role as guardians of our democratic republic and architects of economic opportunity and prosperity. They will be needed even more in the future.

Political support for legal education has not been a success. It’s created too many law schools, too many law school graduates, and too much unpayable student debt. For example, the NALP just reported that the percent of 2013 graduates employed at all in February 2014 had fallen—negligibly—to 84.5 percent, even though late last year Dean Allard predicted, “[T]he employment rates reported in 2014 will be substantially higher than in 2013.” (More on the NALP report another time.)

Look, good on Brooklyn Law School for unilaterally cutting its tuition next year. It may not be a voluntary rather than demonstrative act like if an elite law school did it to buck the U.S. News rankings, but we can have competent lawyers without student loans and expensive law schools.

On a 25-year fixed repayment the average 2013 Brooklyn Law grad would have to cough up over $750 a month to make his or her student loan payments on $110,000 in debt. Even under the old IBR system, that would require an income of $121,600 per year from day one to escape loan cancelation after 25 years. Since many BLS grads don’t make that kind of income, many will undoubtedly take PAYE and the government will have to write-down the losses. Thus, Allard is right: The beneficiaries of lower law school tuition aren’t just law students but everyone else. Although, it is a “shameful canard” to imply that the federal loan program is a blessing for everyone but law schools and a handful of lucky law students.

After the JD Wave 0

Last month I wrote an article for the The Am Law Daily about the After the JD project, a longitudinal study that measures employment outcomes for people who passed the bar exam in 2000. I thought it might be interesting to offer, as an appendix, the Official Guide‘s employment outcomes for Y2K law grads (they’re in the ’03 edition). Obviously, this isn’t a perfect fit as some people who passed the bar in 2000 graduated earlier, but the overlap should be fairly significant.

Back in those days, though, the Official Guide wasn’t the treasure trove of knowledge that the ABA’s employment questionnaire reports are now, and it’s certainly not as detailed as the After the JD’s information is. However, for those interested in getting a sense of the legal market many of the After the JD cohort entered into by law school, look no further.

To conserve blog space, the tables will follow the jump.

Continue reading

Record 14 Law Schools Didn’t Report 2013 Graduate Debt to U.S. News

Record, that is, going back to 2009. If you have data from earlier, lemme know.

Each year, accompanying the U.S. News rankings is the online magazine’s list of law schools by graduate debt. The law schools are required to report this information to the ABA, but the ABA inexplicably doesn’t release it to the public, even though it’s one of the most useful things people studying law schools would like to know about. Instead, the ABA takes an unweighted average of the numbers and posts it in this pdf. Thus, for some reason, we must rely on U.S. News, and of course, law schools can decline to transmit their graduates’ average debt numbers.

On average, about four law schools (excluding Widener University’s Harrisburg campus, the three Puerto Rico law schools, and Belmont because I don’t think it’s had any graduates yet) don’t report average graduate debt levels. The previous record was six in 2010. This year, as many as fourteen chose not to. Here’s the list and their last reported average graduate debt levels:

Arizona Summit (formerly Phoenix) – $162,627 [UPDATE: Per the comments below, Arizona Summit Law School’s Web site posts its 2012-13 graduates’ average amount borrowed as $184,825.]

Southwestern – $147,976

Atlanta’s John Marshall – $142,515

Cornell – $140,000

Touro – $137,781

Campbell – $130,428

Santa Clara – $129,621

Loyola (La.) – $124,335

Thomas M. Cooley – $122,395

Appalachian – $114,740

La Verne – $112,628

Texas Southern – $99,992

Florida A&M (two years in a row) – $96,934

Rutgers-Camden – $93,990

Most of the non-reporters are private law schools and five are free-standing privates. Four are in California. All of them tend to have higher debt levels than the norm, so any weighted-average law school debt figure will skew downward. This is important because the unweighted average law school debt level appears to have declined, but that’s attributable to non-reporting—not reduced average costs or less Grad PLUS borrowing. Last year these schools graduated 3,724 students, eight percent of the total.

Other law schools deserve dishonorable mention for misreporting:

  • Barry University didn’t report its average graduate debt level last year, but two years ago it was $137,680; this year it’s only $47,799, suggesting it reported its third-year students’ annual debt and not graduate debt like it was supposed to. There was a flap about this last year, so it’s surprising anyone would make this mistake again. (Why U.S. News doesn’t notice is another matter.)
  • Southern University Law Center’s graduate debt spiked from $21,911 last year to $80,542 this year, indicating it’d been misreporting in previous years. Credit for the correction, discredit for misreporting in previous years.

Honorable mentions:

  • University of District of Columbia reported its average graduate debt for the first time in three years.
  • University of Indiana-Indianapolis reported its average graduate debt for the first time in four years.
  • No law school that reported its average graduate debt omitted the percent of graduates who had student loan debt. This had occurred in previous years but not this year.

I don’t know why law schools neglect to report their average graduate debt levels. If I were paranoid, I’d say that it makes high-debt/poor-outcome schools look unappealing, and since there’s no punishment for not reporting, they don’t. I do think it’s bad for law schools to not report average debt levels, and the high number of non-reports this year doesn’t make law schools look particularly transparent in general.

[UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the numbers thrown around here are average amounts borrowed and not average indebtedness, which would include accrued interest.]

Which Law Schools Saw the Biggest Full-Time Enrollment Drops in 2013?

…Is the question of the day. The bigger question is, enrollment drop since when? Most of the time media outlets will report law schools’ cumulative percent declines since the overall enrollment peak in 2010, but those aren’t necessarily descriptive. It might be more valuable to measure enrollment declines since previous trough years. For the mean average law school, those would be 2007 and 1999.

Full-Time Law School Enrollment (ex P.R.)

(Source: Official Guide, 2013 data here (PDF), author’s calculations)

You might also want to ask, why not include part-time or post-J.D. students? There are a bunch of reasons, and laziness isn’t one of them. One, full-time programs are the bread and butter of law schools. Two, we care more about the younger crowd, who tend to be full-timers and are more likely to pay full tuition. Three, in any given year part-timers are not even 20 percent of all J.D. students. Nowadays, their share is even less… I could go on but I won’t.

If you remove the 23 law schools that were accredited since 1999 (!), the two average trough years remain the same, and the most-recent trough year for all law students moves from 2006 to 2007, which makes this analysis cleaner. Yay!

So, here’s a table of cumulative law school enrollment declines that’s sorted by the average of law schools’ 1999 and 2007 declines (not shown). Why that average? Because we want to see which law schools are really breaking from their enrollment trends. Schools like Quinnipiac, for example, have seen large enrollment drops since 1999, but not so much in 2007, meaning they shrank significantly in the previous decade and not more recently. I’ve also included the commonly used cumulative decline since 2010, as well as a ranking for that on the rightmost column.

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# LAW SCHOOL 1999 DECLINE 2007 DECLINE 2010 DECLINE 2010 RANK
1. Catholic -47.7% -43.7% -39.1% 5.
2. Tulsa -42.5% -43.8% -31.0% 15.
3. Seton Hall -42.6% -33.9% -32.2% 14.
4. Iowa -38.1% -35.1% -28.4% 21.
5. Case Western Reserve -32.6% -38.3% -33.0% 10.
6. Hamline -30.8% -37.4% -32.9% 12.
7. Western New England -25.9% -40.8% -39.3% 4.
8. Cleveland State -31.8% -34.8% -27.6% 23.
9. Wayne State -35.9% -30.6% -30.7% 17.
10. Golden Gate -20.9% -37.5% -45.5% 1.
11. New Hampshire -24.5% -32.3% -35.3% 8.
12. Kansas -32.1% -24.6% -25.6% 27.
13. Dayton -28.8% -24.1% -38.5% 6.
14. Widener -29.6% -21.3% -30.9% 16.
15. Capital -21.1% -29.0% -32.9% 11.
16. McGeorge -29.3% -20.3% -32.3% 13.
17. Samford -30.2% -17.4% -16.7% 62.
18. Florida, University of -20.1% -26.8% -9.6% 100.
19. Regent -20.3% -24.7% -19.6% 48.
20. Texas -25.9% -19.1% -9.4% 102.
21. Thomas M. Cooley -16.6% -27.9% -44.1% 3.
22. Temple -23.8% -20.3% -24.6% 32.
23. Wisconsin -20.3% -22.8% -17.5% 56.
24. Quinnipiac -49.8% 7.2% -25.9% 26.
25. Toledo -24.1% -18.4% -22.2% 42.
26. Missouri (Columbia) -27.7% -14.5% -13.1% 84.
27. Washburn -17.5% -23.8% -25.3% 28.
28. Ohio Northern -17.2% -24.1% -24.6% 31.
29. Boston University -24.2% -17.1% -17.7% 55.
30. Lewis and Clark -16.7% -23.8% -22.7% 39.
31. Gonzaga -10.8% -29.5% -23.1% 36.
32. Houston -18.8% -21.1% -11.7% 91.
33. New York Law School -9.9% -28.8% -44.4% 2.
34. Widener (Harrisburg) -8.1% -30.5% -38.3% 7.
35. Vermont -13.2% -24.0% -30.5% 18.
36. Southern Methodist -28.0% -6.8% -4.6% 140.
37. Albany -15.2% -19.2% -23.2% 34.
38. Villanova -15.9% -18.3% -22.4% 40.
39. Duquesne -8.0% -26.2% -23.6% 33.
40. Tulane -26.8% -7.3% -9.4% 103.
41. Memphis -19.5% -14.2% -16.9% 60.
42. California Western -9.1% -23.0% -26.1% 25.
43. Brooklyn -8.3% -23.4% -29.7% 20.
44. Oregon -13.8% -17.4% -17.1% 58.
45. Pittsburgh -13.9% -17.4% -20.2% 47.
46. Oklahoma -20.6% -9.4% -14.0% 78.
47. Texas Southern -20.3% -8.6% -6.7% 127.
48. Syracuse -20.7% -8.2% -4.7% 137.
49. Seattle -6.8% -21.9% -18.3% 53.
50. George Mason -0.5% -27.8% -28.1% 22.
51. SUNY Buffalo -8.2% -18.6% -12.4% 86.
52. Penn State -9.4% -17.1% -23.0% 37.
53. Rutgers (Camden) -16.2% -9.8% -11.7% 92.
54. St. Mary’s -16.4% -9.4% -6.2% 129.
55. San Francisco -7.6% -17.1% -21.7% 45.
56. Ohio State -10.0% -14.2% -17.2% 57.
57. St. Louis 1.6% -25.5% -30.1% 19.
58. West Virginia -8.9% -14.2% -7.3% 123.
59. Arizona -11.8% -10.8% -13.9% 81.
60. Willamette -12.3% -9.6% -15.8% 67.
61. Creighton -6.6% -15.3% -16.8% 61.
62. Alabama -15.9% -5.5% -8.6% 110.
63. California-Hastings -5.9% -14.3% -16.5% 64.
64. Illinois -12.0% -7.5% -15.2% 71.
65. South Carolina -12.6% -6.9% -9.1% 105.
66. Brigham Young -8.8% -9.8% -7.0% 125.
67. Boston College -12.1% -6.4% -8.5% 112.
68. Florida State -4.1% -14.3% -15.9% 66.
69. Akron -12.6% -5.2% 4.7% 179.
70. Connecticut 0.2% -16.9% -8.6% 111.
71. Missouri (Kansas City) -7.0% -9.2% -7.6% 117.
72. California-Davis -2.3% -13.5% -15.3% 70.
73. Denver -1.3% -14.4% -4.7% 138.
74. Utah -4.1% -10.8% -11.9% 90.
75. Virginia -3.9% -10.8% -5.2% 134.
76. Tennessee -8.7% -5.8% -8.3% 113.
77. Santa Clara 0.2% -14.3% -16.7% 63.
78. Pepperdine -9.2% -4.9% -9.7% 98.
79. Southern Illinois -10.5% -3.4% -10.5% 97.
80. Mississippi -2.9% -10.8% -10.7% 96.
81. St. John’s -2.9% -10.3% -12.2% 88.
82. Notre Dame -5.5% -7.6% -7.8% 115.
83. DePaul -8.3% -3.4% -15.6% 68.
84. William Mitchell 10.4% -21.9% -17.1% 59.
85. City University -2.8% -8.3% -13.7% 83.
86. Richmond -4.0% -6.4% 0.7% 171.
87. Northeastern -1.6% -8.8% -9.5% 101.
88. Michigan -1.6% -8.5% -7.4% 122.
89. Cincinnati -7.0% -3.1% -15.4% 69.
90. Arkansas (Fayetteville) -0.5% -9.1% -5.1% 135.
91. Wyoming -6.0% -3.1% -4.3% 141.
92. District of Columbia 12.5% -20.3% -26.2% 24.
93. Indiana (Indianapolis) 2.7% -10.2% -2.4% 154.
94. Minnesota 2.3% -9.1% -4.1% 143.
95. San Diego 3.1% -9.4% -16.2% 65.
96. Georgia -3.0% -3.3% -11.7% 93.
97. Hofstra -0.2% -5.6% -13.1% 85.
98. Nova Southeastern 0.0% -5.7% -18.8% 52.
99. Kentucky 0.0% -5.6% -4.1% 145.
100. Hawaii 1.7% -7.0% -19.0% 51.
101. Nebraska 0.0% -4.8% -8.3% 114.
102. Vanderbilt 1.1% -5.8% -3.4% 150.
103. Loyola Marymount (CA) -1.7% -2.8% -3.8% 146.
104. Louisiana State -8.2% 3.7% -5.0% 136.
105. Drake 8.0% -12.3% -19.5% 49.
106. Pace 6.7% -10.3% -22.1% 43.
107. Rutgers (Newark) 3.2% -6.3% -14.3% 77.
108. California-Los Angeles 1.9% -4.9% -2.4% 153.
109. George Washington 5.9% -8.9% -8.7% 109.
110. New Mexico -1.7% -0.9% -2.0% 157.
111. Illinois Institute of Technology -3.9% 1.6% -2.8% 151.
112. Howard 2.8% -4.9% -14.0% 79.
113. Oklahoma City 14.0% -15.6% -25.0% 29.
114. Maine -0.8% -0.4% -9.0% 107.
115. Maryland 4.2% -5.2% -12.4% 87.
116. Washington University 13.6% -14.2% -23.1% 35.
117. Southern California -1.0% 0.7% -7.5% 118.
118. Loyola (LA) 16.9% -17.0% -14.7% 75.
119. California-Berkeley 1.1% -1.2% -6.8% 126.
120. Texas Tech 7.6% -7.5% -4.6% 139.
121. Stetson 8.7% -8.4% -19.1% 50.
122. Colorado 4.7% -3.0% -5.9% 131.
123. Mississippi College 18.6% -16.9% -18.1% 54.
124. Montana 6.4% -2.0% -2.7% 152.
125. Pennsylvania 4.2% 0.5% -2.0% 156.
126. Harvard 5.2% 0.4% 0.5% 169.
127. South Dakota 12.5% -6.8% 2.0% 174.
128. Duke -2.0% 7.9% -2.3% 155.
129. Northern Illinois 11.9% -5.8% -9.0% 106.
130. New York University 6.8% -0.4% -0.9% 163.
131. Mercer 7.2% -0.7% 1.4% 173.
132. Miami 15.6% -8.8% -14.4% 76.
133. Baltimore 8.1% -0.9% -10.8% 95.
134. Columbia 6.9% 1.0% -7.1% 124.
135. Indiana (Bloomington) 4.9% 3.1% -1.2% 161.
136. Suffolk 5.4% 2.9% -3.6% 148.
137. North Carolina 5.4% 3.0% -7.5% 119.
138. New England 14.2% -5.5% -15.1% 72.
139. Chicago 8.3% 0.8% -3.5% 149.
140. South Texas 10.4% -0.2% -7.4% 120.
141. Idaho 7.5% 2.9% -9.2% 104.
142. Cardozo 7.4% 3.7% -4.1% 144.
143. Washington 8.9% 2.5% -1.6% 159.
144. Southwestern 13.4% -1.7% -7.4% 121.
145. Stanford 5.3% 6.7% 0.5% 170.
146. Wake Forest 6.4% 6.6% -1.0% 162.
147. Arizona State 17.9% -4.7% -7.7% 116.
148. Cornell 10.6% 3.6% -1.8% 158.
149. Whittier 5.7% 8.9% -14.7% 74.
150. Yale 8.5% 6.7% -0.6% 167.
151. Northwestern 17.4% -1.0% -6.6% 128.
152. William and Mary 15.8% 1.0% -0.8% 165.
153. Arkansas (Little Rock) 17.8% -0.3% -13.9% 80.
154. Georgia State 18.7% -0.8% 2.6% 176.
155. Washington and Lee 14.8% 6.1% 2.9% 177.
156. Fordham 29.0% -6.9% -8.9% 108.
157. Valparaiso 26.0% -1.2% -9.6% 99.
158. Western State 16.7% 8.1% -11.9% 89.
159. North Dakota 28.2% -3.2% -5.9% 132.
160. Touro 37.3% -11.7% -24.6% 30.
161. John Marshall (Chicago) 34.9% -9.1% -13.8% 82.
162. St. Thomas (FL) 27.9% -0.3% -15.0% 73.
163. Georgetown 25.3% 5.5% 4.2% 178.
164. Thomas Jefferson 43.5% -5.7% -20.2% 46.
165. Marquette 30.6% 9.6% -0.7% 166.
166. Loyola (IL) 31.0% 9.7% -1.6% 160.
167. American 42.0% -0.5% -0.2% 168.
168. Louisville 30.6% 12.4% -4.2% 142.
169. Emory 31.7% 14.4% 2.4% 175.
170. Michigan State 38.8% 9.1% -5.6% 133.
171. Roger Williams 81.0% -24.5% -22.2% 41.
172. Texas Wesleyan 59.0% 5.9% -3.7% 147.
173. Campbell 42.1% 24.5% -6.2% 130.
174. Southern University 52.1% 27.9% -0.8% 164.
175. Northern Kentucky 80.4% 9.2% -11.5% 94.
176. Detroit Mercy 115.5% -24.5% -22.0% 44.
177. North Carolina Central 94.5% 3.8% 1.0% 172.
178. Chapman 326.3% -11.0% -22.7% 38.
179. Florida Coastal 367.9% -9.9% -34.1% 9.
TOTAL -1.0% -10.0% -13.5%
MEAN AVERAGE 4.0% -10.0% -13.8%
MEDIAN AVERAGE -1.6% -8.6% -11.9%

Some observations:

  • Florida Coastal is the real oddball because it’s been league average since 2007 but is way higher than 1999 when it began its expansion phase. Nevertheless, it’s in the top-10 for cumulative full-time enrollment declines since 2010. I’m fine with this result as the goal of this exercise is to find which “established” schools had the most consistent enrollment declines, and newer schools, especially freestanders and for-profits, aren’t very typical. Nor, for that matter, are schools that rely heavily on part-time students.
  • A bunch of the schools at the top of the list never really benefited from the 2010 peak, which shouldn’t be too surprising if you think about it.
  • Elite law schools tend to be at the bottom of both rankings columns, showing that they have much more control over their student bodies than non-elite schools.
  • I’m a little surprised to see Iowa and Wisconsin so high up the list. Texas’ case is a little different, I think, because it may’ve tried to become more selective over the years.
  • Can’t say the same about Case Western or Seton Hall, given what some of their faculty have been saying publicly, but that’s just synthesis via cynicism.
  • Also can’t say the same thing about Boston University; it consistently has a low acceptance rate and a low matriculation yield, implying that it’s everyone’s safety school. There are a few schools in U.S. News‘ 10-30 that are fairly similar (Southern California, Boston College, George Washington, Georgetown, Duke, etc.), but they appear to be doing better than BU.
  • Another way I may do this exercise in the future is to sort the schools by statistical area. It might help illuminate which local schools are more popular than others, regardless of what the rankings say.
  • As many as 11 law schools have seen a positive cumulative enrollment changes since 2010.
  • 83 schools have positive cumulative enrollments since 1999, but don’t worry, almost all of them have larger full-time faculties and the ones that don’t may’ve submitted erroneous faculty data to the Official Guide.

That’s all I’ve got. Peace.

Brilliant People Still Applying to Law School

…Or at least “people who can crush standardized tests” are still applying to law school.

[Mini-Update: For those who’ve read Jerry Organ’s recent writing on the subject, I don’t imply that he’s one of the people arguing that the “wrong people” are applying to law school because he didn’t argue that. Two, the reason he found a greater high-end LSAT decline than I did is that he estimated the applicant profiles into 2013 and I didn’t. His projections may prove correct, but at the very least the initial decline started in the upper-middle LSAT band and has accelerated to the high end.]

I’m not going to go out of my way to cite them, but I’ve seen it asserted that the “wrong people” are choosing not to apply to law school. By “wrong people” they mean those with high GPAs and LSAT scores, aka those who keep civilization from fragmenting into warring states. Focusing only on LSAT scores—as they’re most comparable—the story is a little more complicated. Sure, the collapse in applicants has skewed towards the high end of the LSAT spectrum, but for the most part, the decline has been in the middle.

Here’s 2012 compared to 2010.

No. Applicants by LSAT Score

And here’s the percent decline in each bracket.

Percent Change Number of Applicants by LSAT Score Bracket

So yes, there’s been a big drop at the high end, but overall the decline has been distributed normally as the first chart implies. Here’s the apportionment:

Percent Fewer Applicants Share of Total Decline by Lsat Score

(n=-20,479 applicants)

Pretty much a bell curve. Importantly, more than 60 percent would’ve gotten an LSAT score below 160. The 165+ range doesn’t account for 15 percent of the total decline. Lesson: Those concerned that the best and brightest aren’t interested in law school can rest easy; no warring states! It’s the upper-middle brackets, 150-164 (64 percent!), that are driving the applicant drop.

(Source: LSAC National Decision Profiles)

And for some fun, here’s the decline in law schools’ full-time matriculants’ LSAT scores by their 2014 edition U.S. News rankings.

2010-2012 LSAT Score Decline by U.S. News Category (2014 Edition)

(Slight whoopsie: the middle set of bars should be 51-100. Also, not published (“NP”) includes the unranked University of La Verne, not that it makes much of a difference.)

Looking at this makes me wonder aloud: How far can these numbers drop before employers start worrying about credential dilution at some higher-ranked schools? Or does the sheepskin outweigh the entering credentials?

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