Last Gen X American Theater Review: Star Wars

I saw Star Wars last weekend. Not Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I mean Star Wars, the original. As in, the opening crawl included neither “Episode IV,” nor, “A New Hope,” just “STAR WARS” and then text, signifying that this was indeed the 1977 version. Sometime in the mid-2000s, Lucasfilm caved and offered a limited edition of the original three Star Wars movies, which included bonus DVDs of the un-CGI-ed movies I grew up with—in widescreen. I haven’t so much as tested the “Special Edition” discs.

I think I’ve seen Star Wars twice in the last decade, with the last time being the uncut version (29:22!), so with some time to let it rest in my mind, and watching it with someone who’d never seen it before, I approached the movie with as fresh a mind as I could. I’m certain I watched it scores of times since childhood (once dubbed in Japanese, which was awesome), so I’m definitely unprejudiced. Here are my thoughts:

Luke Skywalker:

Luke wasn’t as whiny as I remember, but he didn’t have much of an arc. Sure he goes on the hero’s journey, but he’s never given an opportunity to opt out. Either he runs off with Ben Kenobi on a swashbuckling adventure, or he sweeps his relatives’ charred corpses into the ditch and becomes a moisture farmer. It’s not much of a choice: “Steinbeck in Space” would’ve been a hard sell.

Part of my problem is that the movie builds up to Luke rejecting Uncle Owen’s libertarian isolationism, but Luke is cheated of that moment. It would’ve more exciting if, rather than being murdered, his aunt and uncle cooperate with the Empire to recover the droids. Uncle Owen may’ve figured the droids weren’t worth his life. He would try to convince Luke to give the droids to the stormtroopers and Luke would’ve said no, perhaps knowing that his decision would doom his relatives.

It’s dark, but Star Wars paints Luke as released when Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are killed, like lifting a great weight from him. He never pins a stormtrooper down and blaster-rifle-butts his face in screaming, “You killed my family, you bastards!” That would’ve even offered a motivation for him to experiment with the dark side of the Force.

Imperial Savagery:

Relatedly, Star Wars depicts the Empire as alternately incompetent and downright savage—off screen. Luke asks why the Empire would want to murder Jawas, but simply answering, “It’s the droids, dummy,” isn’t good enough. Sometimes people will answer your questions without needing to shoot them or even threaten them beyond showing up with a platoon of stormtroopers. They get the hint. The Jawas had no reason to resist the Empire either. They didn’t have the droids and they’d already been paid. It’s not like they owed customer confidentiality to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

As stated earlier, Luke’s relatives didn’t need to resist the Empire either. The stormtroopers had every reason to give them the, “Sir, can you call your nephew and tell him to bring those droids right back here? He’ll be in deep trouble if he doesn’t” treatment. Sure, the scene of Luke returning to his burning home is iconic and superbly executed, but it’s the easy way out for the character.

So, did the Empire kill every single person they came across on Tatooine who so much as looked at R2D2? I think not. Just when it was convenient.

Han Solo:

I chuckled when he shot Greedo. First. It was a great scene to establish the character. However, this time around I found him bizarrely reckless. His fearlessness is endearing, but he runs after some stormtroopers in the Death Star for absolutely no reason. Luke rightly cries, “Where are you going?” He also fires his blaster needlessly at times, e.g. at the trash compactor monster. It’s a wonder he wasn’t killed. At least he has more of an arc than Luke because he decides to go back and join the attack on the Death Star, but it isn’t particularly deep.

The Death Star:

Watching the Death Star scenes, both the interior and the final attack, a wondered, “Just how big is it?” I’d always thought it was colossal, crammed with military arsenals for all kinds of operations and hundreds of thousands of stormtroopers. Like, mind-boggling overkill in every dimension. Watching it this time, though, I think it’s either much smaller than I imagined (or its size varies depending on the plot). I’ve always been mesmerized by its surreal, endless shafts, and vertical lighting that emphasizes them, but nevertheless the characters have no difficulty whatsoever navigating it.

Maybe that’s a case of the saying I’m told is attributed to Aristotle, “It’s better to make the impossible plausible than the implausible plausible.” I can believe in a moon-sized space station that can blow up planets, but I can’t believe the protagonists can run around inside like it’s not the Minotaur’s maze. On the other hand, Star Wars is a heroic epic, and perhaps the genre enables heroes to wander around the Death Star. I’m confident that a movie made today with a location like the Death Star would not work without more explanation of how the characters can move around so brashly. Now, I’m wondering how big it was in Lucas’ head. In my mind, it’s now much smaller in size and scope.

Additionally, the trash compactor monster bit was much sillier this time around. Then again, the Death Star’s interior is a different universe than the rest of the movie.

The Force:

The other thing we have to accept is how much subtler the Force is in Star Wars than its successors. Only when Darth Vader chokes the Death Star’s commander do we have any reason to believe that the Force permits telekinesis, but even that appears as a kind of magic or spooky mind control rather than physical action.

To be honest, I prefer this Force to what comes after. Once Luke uses Force telekinesis to pull his lightsaber to him from the snow in The Empire Strikes Back, the nature of the Force goes downhill, becoming an object of manipulation available to the chosen few. But in Star Wars there’s a possibility that if you believe in the Force, you can tap it to a degree, yet it just happens that no one believes in it. Now it’s just a vehicle for video game power-ups.

Han can question the Force as “hokey religion” in Star Wars because it’s so unobvious, but once we see Jedis whisking stuff around, it’s difficult to be incredulous. I appreciate The Force Awakens‘ attempt to remind us of this “Force doubt” when Han confesses to Rey that it’s all true, but if Kenobi just yanked Han’s blaster from his holster in the original, the issue would’ve been moot. If Han is our window into the everyday person’s perspective of the galaxy, it’s strange that anyone would be incredulous or forget about the Force and the Jedi.

The Villains:

One reason I think Star Wars works so well is that it doesn’t end with the protagonists killing the ultimate villain, the emperor. In fact, the lead villain, Tarkin, isn’t killed in personal combat with any of the main characters. Only Princess Leia ever interacts with him—or Darth Vader for that matter. Most other movies would add a scene where the (male) protagonists meet the villains (whether they’re captured or not), learn their plans, and then conspire to foil them. However, Star Wars goes nowhere near that. Only Princess Leia conveys the villains’ plans to the male protagonists, and it doesn’t matter because she’s the one in charge of the rebellion. Han bails once he’s paid, and Luke was going to join the rebellion anyway. Luke wasn’t even tasked with leading the attack on the Death Star; he’s charged with supporting the experienced commanders and only attacks himself when they fail.

Meanwhile, Tarkin isn’t a portrayed as a Ming-the-Merciless warlord, he’s a ruthless general. His motivation is to serve autocracy, and he’s fine with that. He’s evil, but professional. More importantly, Darth Vader obeys him, which is more evidence of a weaker (and I think better) conception of the Force than in all the sequels.

Princess Leia:

…Is not really a damsel-in-distress character as I imagined, other than being a princess. She isn’t captured out of her incompetence. In fact, she’s almost as trigger-happy as Han. She initiates the plot by loading the Death Star plans into R2D2 and rescues the male protagonists by discovering the trash compactor. The biggest complaint against her is that she rushes to the rebel base on Yavin knowingly allowing the Empire to track her. The movie should’ve given her a chance to explain this decision. Again, to its credit, The Force Awakens hints at this omission when Han tells Finn and Rey that they need a clean ship because the Millennium Falcon is “hot.”

Leia’s problem is that she’s introduced at the tail end of her story in order to tell us about Luke’s journey to embracing his paternal origin as galactic actor rather than withdrawn moisture farmer. That’s Star Wars‘ gender problem. Disney will never make it, but a Princess Leia prequel could be quite good. We could see her become tough as nails as she’s forced to decide whether to sacrifice innocent civilians to free the galaxy. Leia Guevara would be overboard, but it could draw the character better than Star Wars does with Luke.

I still haven’t read Dune, but…

Rewatching Star Wars left me with a somber realization: No number of re-viewings will give me the experience of seeing Star Wars as a twelve-year-old in 1977. Perhaps the First Gen X American can write that one up, but everything I know about Star Wars‘ origins and proximate impact is second hand. What I did see was a well-paced reduction of baby-boomer icons: the wild west cowboys, Buck Rogers, and WWII air battles. I haven’t read Dune, and I haven’t seen Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, but I know they’re in there as well.

Cramming all this stuff together should fail for its cumbersomeness. Certainly the pacing, the editing (love the wipes), special effects that work with and not against the story, and undoubtedly the score lift it beyond just being good or entertaining.

Whether Star Wars endured because ’70s cinema was “boring” or “cynical,” redeemed the post-Vietnam American psyche, or arrived just in time for folks like me to rewatch it endlessly on VHS, I don’t know. But if a movie was going to become American pop-culture religion, there could’ve been worse candidates, and Star Wars itself could’ve been much worse.

Anthony Carnevale Has Two Years to Reemploy 15.8 Million College Grads

Two years ago I made fun of President Obama’s ludicrous claim that “more than 60 percent of jobs in the next decade will require more than a high school diploma.” It appeared Obama appropriated the statistic from Anthony P. Carnevale’s paper for the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce (GCEW), entitled, “Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements Through 2018.” It shrieks on page 22 that 63 percent of jobs created by 2018 would require a college education: 33 percent bachelor’s degrees, and 30 percent associate’s degrees or just some college.

As I wrote in January 2014, Carnevale and his colleagues reasoned that the BLS was holding occupational credential requirements constant when they should drift with times. As non-college jobs go increasingly to college-educated workers, we should consider those jobs as requiring college education.

If you’re scratching your head wondering if Carnevale is rationalizing credential inflation, then you have no hope of employment in a D.C. think tank. (Maybe you didn’t go to college?) In the fourth appendix, the authors merely counter-argue, “BLS’ educational and training requirement data undercount postsecondary degrees by 22 million in 2008. This implies that 22 million workers are overeducated. The overwhelming consensus in the literature contradicts this.”

Thanks to the most recent publication of the BLS’s employment projections (tables 1.7 and 1.11), I get 15.8 million people with a bachelor’s degree or higher in jobs requiring a high-school education or less. On the bright side, that’s down 100,000 jobs from two years ago. That backlog won’t clear until the mid-22nd century.

It’s true that occupations can change and benefit from productivity advances, and many occupations do not require a single credential to enter them. However, the question GCEW should be asking is what jobs overqualified workers are taking. The answer isn’t too compelling.

Percent BA's in HS & Less Jobs

These twenty occupations account for half of the 12.9 million bachelor’s-degree holders working in high school or less jobs. These occupations dominate among master’s-degree and doctorate holders as well. Maybe some of these folks over 25 are in these jobs temporarily (they’d have to be for many), but at that age it’s pretty implausible that they’re on track for college-premium-magic careers.

Overall, 19.3 million college-and-higher people are qualified or underqualified for their work, and 27.4 million workers are at least somewhat overqualified, which includes PhDs working in bachelor’s jobs.

In contrast to the GCEW’s forecast, the BLS essentially says that 27.7 percent of the jobs to be created by growth and replacement over the next decade will require an associate’s degree or higher. (BA’s are at 20.5 percent.) High-school and less will account for 64.2 percent. Of the 46.5 million jobs that will be created, here’s a table of the top twenty, accounting for 16 million jobs.

OCCUPATION EDUCATION REQUIRED NO. EMPLOYED (2014) (1,000s) NO. EMPLOYED (2024) (1,000s) NEW JOBS (GROWTH + REPLACEMENT) (1,000s)
TOTAL 150,539.9 160,328.8 46,506.9
Retail salespersons No formal educational credential 4,624.9 4,939.1 1,917.2
Cashiers No formal educational credential 3,424.2 3,491.1 1,523.8
Combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food No formal educational credential 3,159.7 3,503.2 1,364.6
Waiters and waitresses No formal educational credential 2,465.1 2,534.0 1,255.0
Registered nurses Bachelor’s degree 2,751.0 3,190.3 1,088.4
Customer service representatives High school diploma or equivalent 2,581.8 2,834.8 888.7
Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand No formal educational credential 2,441.3 2,566.4 851.7
Office clerks, general High school diploma or equivalent 3,062.5 3,158.2 756.2
Stock clerks and order fillers No formal educational credential 1,878.1 1,971.1 689.0
General and operations managers Bachelor’s degree 2,124.1 2,275.2 688.8
Janitors and cleaners, except maids and housekeeping cleaners No formal educational credential 2,360.6 2,496.9 605.2
Personal care aides No formal educational credential 1,768.4 2,226.5 601.1
Nursing assistants Postsecondary nondegree award 1,492.1 1,754.1 599.0
Home health aides No formal educational credential 913.5 1,261.9 554.8
Accountants and auditors Bachelor’s degree 1,332.7 1,475.1 498.0
Maids and housekeeping cleaners No formal educational credential 1,457.7 1,569.4 459.4
Cooks, restaurant No formal educational credential 1,109.7 1,268.7 452.5
Maintenance and repair workers, general High school diploma or equivalent 1,374.7 1,458.1 443.7
Childcare workers High school diploma or equivalent 1,260.6 1,329.9 441.3
First-line supervisors of retail sales workers High school diploma or equivalent 1,537.8 1,605.4 411.3

Most of these jobs don’t look like they benefit from more education, but hey, maybe Carnevale will reemploy all 15.8 million college grads into jobs that fully utilize their credentials. He only has two years to make it happen.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: December 2015 Edition

The LSAC was oddly slow putting up December LSAT data, but that’s okay because I have little to say about it. The number of LSAT takers has grown for five consecutive testing periods, but things slowed down this time.

No. LSAT Takers, 4-Testing Period Moving Sum

29,115 people took the LSAT in December, up a mere 1.9 percent over last year. The four-period moving sum grew a mere half a percent to 105,940.

I have no insight into whether this slowdown means anything or is just a blip. I’ll speculate after the February or June administrations.

Which Law Schools Are Shedding Full-Time Faculty? (2015 Edition)

Facing shrinking law-school enrollments, many law schools have responded by reducing their faculties. The phenomenon is worth measuring because faculty reductions aren’t always announced publicly, often appearing in the guises of retirements and quiet buy-outs. Consequently, the ABA’s 509 information reports can shed light on changes in law-school faculties. Here’s the cumulative distribution up until 2015.

No. Law-School Faculty by Type

As with last year, I will estimate the decline in fall full-time law-school faculties among the 202 law schools that aren’t in Puerto Rico. The peak for full timers occurred in 2010 (9,093), but that estimate includes the “other full-time faculty” category (clinicians and legal-writing instructors, if I recall), which the ABA no longer tracks independently. The ABA removed that category last year, so at least the 2015-to-2014 comparison will be consistent.

Fall full-time faculty fell by only 3.1 percent this year (-249). Last year the decline was 7.8 percent (-690), indicating a remarkable improvement. Since 2010, the cumulative decline has been 13.3 percent.

Here is a table of law schools ranked by net change in full-time faculty since 2010 and smallest faculty size in 2010. Trivial annual changes may not represent staff reductions and might be attributable to other factors.

FULL-TIME FACULTY (FALL)
RANK SCHOOL ’10 ’14 ’15 ANNUAL CHANGE NET CHANGE
1. WMU Cooley 101 49 44 -5 -57
2. Penn State (Dickinson Law) 57 47 19 -28 -38
3. George Washington 106 72 70 -2 -36
4. Florida Coastal 69 36 37 1 -32
5. SUNY Buffalo 54 48 24 -24 -30
6. John Marshall (Chicago) 75 56 45 -11 -30
7. Pacific, McGeorge 63 36 34 -2 -29
8. Vermont 55 26 27 1 -28
9. Hofstra 60 42 34 -8 -26
10. Arizona Summit [Phoenix] 32 15 7 -8 -25
11. Hamline 34 14 10 -4 -24
12. Catholic 56 38 32 -6 -24
13. DePaul 56 39 32 -7 -24
14. Syracuse 60 51 37 -14 -23
15. New York Law School 71 57 48 -9 -23
16. Texas 103 80 80 0 -23
17. Seton Hall 59 38 37 -1 -22
18. California-Berkeley 90 72 68 -4 -22
19. Cleveland State 39 23 19 -4 -20
20. Santa Clara 65 54 45 -9 -20
21. St. Louis 65 46 45 -1 -20
22. Widener 50 32 31 -1 -19
23. Seattle 66 47 47 0 -19
24. Suffolk 80 78 61 -17 -19
25. Western New England 36 22 18 -4 -18
26. Albany 46 26 28 2 -18
27. Villanova 49 29 31 2 -18
28. Rutgers-Camden 54 42 36 -6 -18
29. Detroit Mercy 42 23 25 2 -17
30. Golden Gate 42 25 25 0 -17
31. Pace 47 34 30 -4 -17
32. Boston University 67 48 50 2 -17
33. Fordham 81 65 65 0 -16
34. Regent 25 14 10 -4 -15
35. Charleston 31 23 16 -7 -15
36. Florida A&M 35 19 20 1 -15
37. Houston 76 70 61 -9 -15
38. New England 40 26 26 0 -14
39. Stetson 59 44 45 1 -14
40. Maryland 63 51 49 -2 -14
41. Roger Williams 27 17 14 -3 -13
42. Atlanta’s John Marshall 35 35 22 -13 -13
43. St. John’s 50 38 37 -1 -13
44. Lewis and Clark 53 47 40 -7 -13
45. Tulane 53 50 40 -10 -13
46. San Diego 66 54 53 -1 -13
47. American 104 90 91 1 -13
48. Quinnipiac 32 19 20 1 -12
49. Oklahoma City 34 24 22 -2 -12
50. William Mitchell 34 26 22 -4 -12
51. Capital 35 17 23 6 -12
52. Marquette 39 34 27 -7 -12
53. Arizona 44 36 32 -4 -12
54. Iowa 46 40 34 -6 -12
55. Nova Southeastern 60 49 48 -1 -12
56. California-Hastings 71 64 59 -5 -12
57. Faulkner 23 15 12 -3 -11
58. Widener (Commonwealth) 25 18 14 -4 -11
59. Dayton 27 18 16 -2 -11
60. Akron 33 30 22 -8 -11
61. Louisiana State 41 35 30 -5 -11
62. North Carolina Central 42 37 31 -6 -11
63. Touro 42 29 31 2 -11
64. Chapman 51 41 40 -1 -11
65. Georgia 51 48 40 -8 -11
66. Ohio Northern 22 13 12 -1 -10
67. Southern University 35 20 25 5 -10
68. California Western 45 37 35 -2 -10
69. Wake Forest 48 36 38 2 -10
70. Wisconsin 65 62 55 -7 -10
71. Miami 82 77 72 -5 -10
72. Appalachian 16 8 7 -1 -9
73. La Verne 19 8 10 2 -9
74. Arkansas (Little Rock) 30 23 21 -2 -9
75. Washington and Lee 35 36 26 -10 -9
76. Southern Methodist 46 31 37 6 -9
77. Loyola (IL) 60 56 51 -5 -9
78. Loyola (CA) 66 58 57 -1 -9
79. Gonzaga 29 21 21 0 -8
80. Florida State 47 40 39 -1 -8
81. Loyola (LA) 50 46 42 -4 -8
82. Connecticut 52 46 44 -2 -8
83. Brooklyn 68 59 60 1 -8
84. St. Mary’s 36 32 29 -3 -7
85. Indiana (Indianapolis) 41 39 34 -5 -7
86. Thomas Jefferson 42 33 35 2 -7
87. Alabama 47 40 40 0 -7
88. Indiana (Bloomington) 59 55 52 -3 -7
89. Montana 19 12 13 1 -6
90. Campbell 23 22 17 -5 -6
91. Ave Maria 26 20 20 0 -6
92. Toledo 26 25 20 -5 -6
93. Tulsa 28 24 22 -2 -6
94. Mississippi 31 30 25 -5 -6
95. Oregon 35 27 29 2 -6
96. Case Western Reserve 47 33 41 8 -6
97. Illinois 49 44 43 -1 -6
98. Louisville 26 24 21 -3 -5
99. Southern Illinois 27 24 22 -2 -5
100. St. Thomas (MN) 29 23 24 1 -5
101. New Hampshire 33 27 28 1 -5
102. Hawaii 35 25 30 5 -5
103. Kansas 35 33 30 -3 -5
104. Texas Tech 35 37 30 -7 -5
105. Valparaiso 35 31 30 -1 -5
106. Washington University 68 62 63 1 -5
107. Yale 76 75 71 -4 -5
108. Northern Kentucky 28 23 24 1 -4
109. Washburn 31 28 27 -1 -4
110. San Francisco 37 31 33 2 -4
111. George Mason 38 31 34 3 -4
112. Southern California 43 42 39 -3 -4
113. Pittsburgh 47 37 43 6 -4
114. Arizona State 53 51 49 -2 -4
115. Chicago 71 67 67 0 -4
116. South Dakota 14 13 11 -2 -3
117. District of Columbia 21 20 18 -2 -3
118. Florida International 32 35 29 -6 -3
119. Oklahoma 34 39 31 -8 -3
120. Rutgers-Newark 40 37 37 0 -3
121. South Texas 44 47 41 -6 -3
122. Temple 63 58 60 2 -3
123. Samford 23 19 21 2 -2
124. Kentucky 25 24 23 -1 -2
125. Mississippi College 26 23 24 1 -2
126. Baylor 27 23 25 2 -2
127. Drake 28 25 26 1 -2
128. Willamette 28 27 26 -1 -2
129. Cincinnati 29 29 27 -2 -2
130. Tennessee 30 27 28 1 -2
131. Michigan State 52 58 50 -8 -2
132. Michigan 92 82 90 8 -2
133. Howard 26 19 25 6 -1
134. Mercer 27 27 26 -1 -1
135. Texas Southern 30 27 29 2 -1
136. Missouri (Kansas City) 34 30 33 3 -1
137. Richmond 36 35 35 0 -1
138. Boston College 51 54 50 -4 -1
139. Southwestern 57 57 56 -1 -1
140. Minnesota 58 55 57 2 -1
141. Chicago-Kent, IIT 66 64 65 1 -1
142. Georgetown 129 124 128 4 -1
143. Duquesne 26 25 26 1 0
144. Drexel 27 27 27 0 0
145. Arkansas (Fayetteville) 29 26 29 3 0
146. Texas A&M [Wesleyan] 30 26 30 4 0
147. Whittier 31 21 31 10 0
148. Pepperdine 35 39 35 -4 0
149. South Carolina 36 38 36 -2 0
150. California-Davis 43 46 43 -3 0
151. Baltimore 58 59 58 -1 0
152. Pennsylvania 75 71 75 4 0
153. California-Los Angeles 86 98 86 -12 0
154. Western State 16 20 17 -3 1
155. Liberty 19 22 20 -2 1
156. Wyoming 21 21 22 1 1
157. Nebraska 26 29 27 -2 1
158. Nevada 26 28 27 -1 1
159. New Mexico 28 33 29 -4 1
160. Barry 33 35 34 -1 1
161. West Virginia 33 38 34 -4 1
162. Utah 34 33 35 2 1
163. City University 36 37 37 0 1
164. Wayne State 38 33 39 6 1
165. Notre Dame 46 44 47 3 1
166. Virginia 79 77 80 3 1
167. Northern Illinois 19 19 21 2 2
168. Elon 20 20 22 2 2
169. Creighton 23 24 25 1 2
170. Missouri (Columbia) 28 31 30 -1 2
171. St. Thomas (FL) 28 32 30 -2 2
172. Vanderbilt 36 34 38 4 2
173. Georgia State 57 55 59 4 2
174. New York University 151 154 153 -1 2
175. North Dakota 12 14 15 1 3
176. Maine 16 13 19 6 3
177. Memphis 18 22 22 0 4
178. Idaho 21 25 25 0 4
179. Ohio State 42 52 46 -6 4
180. Northeastern 36 40 41 1 5
181. William and Mary 39 49 44 -5 5
182. Colorado 43 50 48 -2 5
183. Northwestern 99 103 104 1 5
184. Duke 70 74 76 2 6
185. North Carolina 42 52 49 -3 7
186. Denver 62 73 69 -4 7
187. Brigham Young 19 26 27 1 8
188. Cardozo, Yeshiva 61 61 69 8 8
189. Lincoln Memorial 8 9 1 9
190. Emory 58 61 68 7 10
191. Concordia 10 10 10
192. Washington 54 59 65 6 11
193. Cornell 51 47 63 16 12
194. Florida 56 59 68 9 12
195. Charlotte 35 64 48 -16 13
196. Harvard 141 139 154 15 13
197. Belmont 14 13 -1 13
198. Massachusetts — Dartmouth 17 15 -2 15
199. Stanford 68 90 91 1 23
200. California-Irvine 32 35 3 35
201. Penn State (Penn State Law) 35 35 35
202. Columbia 107 167 161 -6 54
10TH PERCENTILE 23 19 17 -7 -20
25TH PERCENTILE 30 25 24 -4 -12
MEDIAN 42 35 34 -1 -5
75TH PERCENTILE 58 51 48 1 0
90TH PERCENTILE 75 67 68 4 5
MEAN 46.4 40.7 39.0 -1.2 -6.0
GROSS GAIN (^_^) 279 368
GROSS LOSS -528 -1,574
CUMULATIVE 9,093 8,136 7,887 -249 -1,206

Editorial observations:

  • Our No. 1, WMU Cooley, shouldn’t surprise anyone. The next two not so much.
  • As of 2015, Penn State is now two law schools, which is why the new “Penn State Law” campus gained 35 faculty this year from nil. Arguably, Penn State (Dickinson) “shed” these instructors in some sense—just to a different school. Regardless, I don’t think it’s problematic.
  • No. 3, George Washington, raised a stir last year because, as some commenters insisted, the law school reclassified a number of full-time faculty to a designation none could identify. It’s possible that the elimination of the “other full-time faculty” category last year somehow disserved GWU, but I don’t really see why because similar problems didn’t plague other law schools at the time. As it is, until someone can identify which bucket GWU put those 20 or so persons, I consider them “shed.”
  • William Mitchell and Hamline are still separate law schools at this point in 509-land. Mitchell | Hamline does not have a report of its own (a decision I agree with).
  • I’m a bit surprised that Whittier added 10 full-time faculty and that UCLA lost 12.
  • Suffolk lost 17 full-time faculty, and SUNY Buffalo cut its full timers in half (-24). These are plausible if high numbers.
  • Arizona Summit, Appalachian, and Lincoln Memorial have fewer than 10 full-time fall faculty. The latter two aren’t news, but Arizona Summit is the standout because these 7 souls are responsible for 587 students. Arizona Summit reported 0 part-time faculty this year, which is a misreporting (unless its Web site is lying or grossly out of date).
  • La Verne bounced back from 8 full-time faculty last year.
  • Did Harvard really add 15 people? It wouldn’t surprise me, but still.

I believe this is the last topic I regularly cover based on the annual release of the 509 information reports. You can read my past posts for the 2015-16 academic year here:

 

Full-Time Students Paying Full Tuition Fell ~5 Percentage Points in 2014

Once upon a time, more than half of law students at the typical law school paid full tuition.

But that fairy tale is now over. Behold:

Percent Full-Time Law Students Paying Full Tuition

I’m astonished. Now, only about a third of law students at the average law school pay full tuition. These schools must be hemorrhaging money given how much they’re fighting over applicants.

At the average private law school in 2014, there were more students who received less-than-half tuition grants than there were students given a full bill. It appears that in a couple years, even the half-to-full-tuition crowd will outnumber the full freighters—and this is last year’s data!

No. Full-Time Private Law School Students Per School by Grant Received

Speaking of hemorrhaging money, in 2014, full-time law students paying full tuition only contributed $1 billion to private law schools. This year, it’s probably less.

Aggregate Revenue From Full-Time Private Law School Students Paying Full-Tuition

Finally, here’s what tuition discounted by the median grant looks like at private law schools by the mean of their full tuition quintiles. The idea here is to set full tuition as the independent variable and let the discounted tuition float.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition and Median Discounted Tuition by Tuition Quintile Mean

Percent Private Law School Students Receiving Median Grant by Full Tuition Quintile Mean

Last year, the mean discounted tuition among law schools in the second full-tuition quintile was lower than the third’s, meaning second-quintile schools are discounting much more than schools that nominally charge less. I think it’s trivial, but it indicates pricing competition.

That’s all for now.

It’s 2016. Where’s My ‘Hyperinflationary Great Depression’?

[The following post first appeared on the LSTB on January 1, 2012. What it said then still applies today, mutatis mutandis. Thanks for reading the blog and have a prosperous 2016!]

Behold, the curse of a long memory. Last January [2011], Google Alerts sent me an e-mail informing me that the National Inflation Association (“Preparing Americans for Hyperinflation”) issued a press release predicting that the higher ed bubble was “set to burst beginning in mid-2011. This bursting bubble will have effects that are even more far-reaching than the bursting of the Real Estate bubble in 2006.” The NIA press release then digressed into legal education (I’m guessing they’d just read David Segal’s first NYT piece a few days earlier), how evil lawyers are, how they produce nothing for society, and how 60 percent of the Senate and 37 percent of the House are lawyers who rig the economy to make jobs for lawyers. It editorializes:

“While everybody went to school to become a lawyer [really?], nobody went to school to become a farmer because Americans didn’t see any money in farming. With prices of nearly all agricultural commodities soaring through the roof in 2010 and with NIA expecting this trend to continue throughout 2011, the few new farmers out there are going to become rich while lawyers are standing at street corners with cups begging for money.”

The NIA would’ve been more helpful if it explained how lawyers could be a drain on society yet remain vulnerable to market forces. Also, one would think unemployed lawyers would try to find non-lawyer jobs instead of begging, but I think it’s important to note that agricultural prices weren’t “soaring through the roof” in 2010. They were growing, yes, but although the NIA was right that they continued to do so in 2011, (a) it’s stalled recently, and (b) they’re no worse than they were in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Oh well. The NIA sternly concluded:

“We must work hard to educate America to the truth if our country is going to have the wherewithal to survive the upcoming bursting college bubble and Hyperinflationary Great Depression.”

Whoa.

I can’t say I’m quite as disappointed as the NIA undoubtedly is that we’re not seeing much inflation these days, and in mid-2011 I didn’t see many colleges cutting their tuition, laying off faculty, closing programs, or trying to retrench themselves. I also remain unconvinced that $1 trillion in student debt can be worse than $8 trillion in mortgage debt. True, student debt is not dischargeable (unlike mortgage deficiencies) absent a showing of an undue hardship, and it’s hampering the recovery and ruining lives, but it’s not worse in quantity than the housing bubble. As for the NIA’s paranoid ranting about lawyers, all economic evidence I’ve seen indicates that legal services have all but stagnated for much of the last two decades. Apparently, those 60 percent of lawyer-senators aren’t very good at creating work for themselves. I suppose the NIA should express appreciation.

Anyway, if anything, inflation would be a boon to underwater homeowners and student debtors because it erodes the real value of their debts, which grew significantly in the 2000s. Here’s household debt to GDP:

Importantly, I’m no macroeconomist but I’ve never heard of a “hyperinflationary depression.” The terms contradict each other. Depressions occur when people take on excessive debt and begin paying it down simultaneously instead of spending money on other things. This is deflationary because new credit isn’t being created, even by the government. By contrast, hyperinflation has only occurred in unusual circumstances, like when a government owes debts to foreigners in a different currency. Weimar Germany, for example, owed gold-dominated war reparations to the Allied powers, and to purchase the gold, it printed money, causing hyperinflation. Zimbabwe isn’t a good comparison either because it’s a small, HIV-ridden landlocked state with an undiversified, oligopolistic agrarian economy while the U.S. is a wealthy, continent-spanning super-state.

As for inflation fears generally, maybe it’s the fact that I have no memory of high inflation, but why isn’t there a “National Personal Income Association” (NPIA) that regularly celebrates increases in Americans’ per capita personal income?

“Per capita personal income has quadrupled since 1980! Prices didn’t even triple! Hooray! We’re rich! Fiat currency forever and ever! ‘You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!'”

I’m sure the NPIA wouldn’t’ve been too thrilled with 2008-09, but personal income is increasing again. The problem has just been that over the decades those gains haven’t been distributed equally. This isn’t a problem of inflation but one of wages and taxation.

Intuition tells me the NIA won’t spend early 2012 carefully discussing why the higher ed bubble didn’t burst in mid-2011 as it predicted, nor will it take the time to explain why Americans—many of whom are net debtors—should be concerned about inflation. Instead it will prophecy even more hyperinflation later. But here’s hoping the National Inflation Association won’t provide me entertainment come January 1, 2013. Such is the curse of a long memory.