Legal Education

5 Ways Speaker Ryan Might Change (Law School) Student Loans

Yes, not the Trump era—the Ryan era. Partly we should be clear about who’s really setting any agendas here, but it’s also to recognize that extraconstitutional President D. Trump might not finish his term. The way things have been going since the election, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s gone by the time you’re reading this.

Moreover, thus far Trump’s sole contribution to student-loan reform has been yet another income-sensitive repayment plan, which was one of the few ideas that he provided any details for during the campaign. As I understand it, his proposal limits the repayment period to 15 years rather than 20, which saves on the net amount debtors pay while increasing their monthly payments. I don’t know if that would require any action by Congress, so I’m sure Betsy DeVos is right on it.

More interesting is why Trump even looks like he cares about student debtors at all. According to the WSJ, for example, they’re the biggest moochers ever, requiring a projected bailout of $100 billion over some number of years. (Never mind that a week later the Defense Department admitted that it wastes $125 billion every five years. Debtors are moochers; the Pentagon, no.) Republicans hate moochers, Trump is a Republican, debtors are moochers; therefore Trump hates debtors. Q.E.D. Maybe Trump sympathizes (if that’s possible) with student debtors because of his frequent bankruptcy filings and probable debts to Vladimir Putin’s buddies. Hey, the syllogism still works if Trump or Republicans are moochers or debtors themselves.

Anyhow, I don’t see student debt on Trump’s agenda such as it is. As I understand it, presidents have a brief window early in their first terms to push their priorities through Congress before their popularity plummets. Trump was never popular, and his popularity is already plummeting, so if student loans were a low priority to begin with, they’ll fall off his list now. Consequently, I think he’ll sign any legislation so long as he can spin it to sound like a victory. This leaves the legislature as the only source of policy. Senate Majority Leader McConnell is too busy looking like a tortoise, so this all falls to the House, which means Ryan.

And Speaker Ryan likes policy. He’s not particularly good at it, but he sounds like he is, so there’s that. Here is where I Ryan might take Congress on student loans:

  1. Nowhere. Ryan and friends are already excited about (a) avoiding their constituents who want to keep their Obamacare, (b) avoiding their constituents who want them to investigate the president’s Russia ties, (c) passing tax cuts for people who don’t need them, (d) passing a budget that slashes all discretionary programs (i.e. “Mr. Rogers’ Privatized Neighborhood“), (e) privatizing Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security/national parks, and (f) dealing with even more blowback from all of the above. If Trump’s conflicts blossom into a constitutional crisis, then we’ll have more entertaining things to think about than student loans.
  2. Adopting fair-value accounting for government credit programs. This is one of Ryan’s few policy positions I agree with, and the Congressional Budget Office does too. (More info here.) There’s long been plenty of liberal opposition to it, but the Republicans might be able to flip the Democratic senators necessary to beat a filibuster. Changing the Federal Credit Reform Act is also sufficiently technical that it will not lead to grassroots mobilization of angry liberals who believe fair-value accounting threatens diversity.
  3. Passing the ExCEL Loan Act. I have no idea where it originally came from, but sometimes even Democrats offer this bill. Its point is that there are too many types of federal loans and too many repayment plans. The ExCEL Loan Act consolidates them, but it also eliminates loan forgiveness features that come with income-sensitive repayment plans.
  4. Capping or eliminating Grad PLUS loans. Supposedly, Ryan doesn’t like the program, and other representatives have grumbled about it, so law schools’ crutch might finally die. The only two reasons to think this might not come about are (a) the diversity crowd, and (b) the for-profit law schools that provide a very important public service—can Ryan resist the siren call of corporate welfare?
  5. Reforming or Eliminating the Department of Education. Maybe something like this could happen if the Democrats do badly in the 2018 midterms—many Senate seats are up—but it depends on how the next two years unfold. Similarly, it’s possible that Republicans will resurrect the guaranteed loan program. Ultimately, there’s a tension between honoring the Bennett hypothesis and giving government revenue to banks.

In the past I’ve said that (4) (Grad PLUS loans) is a likely option, but now I’m not so sure. Nobody expected the election to turn out as it did, but I thought unified Republican governance would be more focused. Yet one month in we have a party that’s stumped on repealing the health care law it’s hated for years and is nowhere near cutting taxes. It’s not implausible, then, that higher education reform is either lower on the agenda or won’t be as decisive as we’d hope.

Speaking of unified governance, a few weeks ago the ABA House of Delegates rejected the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s proposed bar-passage standard for law schools. As with all rulemaking or legislation the dispute isn’t fully resolved, but it’s noteworthy that the section committees that passed the standard are supposed to be the ones captured by student-loan dependent law schools and self-important law professors, while the House of Delegates is independent. Instead, the house is preaching diversity while the section passed a rule mandating accountability. Maybe the house is bad-copping the good-cop section, or the ABA’s politics have gone topsy-turvy as our Putin-loving government’s has.

In context, the bar-passage standard appeared to be the only viable idea out of the ABA that would shut down the most superfluous law schools. Given that the number of applicants is flat, and assuming policy is still gridlocked, it seems we’re in for more of the same for the next few years.

Blogger Discredited: Law Students Not Aging (on Average)

The blogger being … yours truly. A few years ago, I asserted on The American Lawyer that high-end LSAT scores were falling not because smart people were avoiding law school but because younger people were. I was trying to push back against the notion that young people are law-school lemmings. I think I was ultimately right about the LSAT scores but for other reasons, as I’ll discuss later.

In the meantime, here’s how we know I was wrong. The LSAC tracks law-school applicants by their ages. It last analyzed the data in 2010, and I thought it would only take two or three years until the next update. Well, the LSAC dragged its heels and kept a long-outdated pdf on its data Web page. I’m not sure why; the new numbers don’t show anything damning. Anyway, I noticed that the LSAC finally updated its applicant age data, so here you go:

percent-applicants-by-age-bracket

2010 is blank because the LSAC didn’t bother releasing that information, which is what happens when you’re slow and disorganized.

Using 2009 as the base year (because that’s the last applicant peak we have), we find a very modest shift in applicant age brackets. Among applicants in 2015, about 2.1 percent fewer were under the age of thirty while 2.1 percent more were over thirty. The biggest contributors are 25-29-year-olds and the over 40 bracket, respectively. Although half the cumulative decline in applicants since 2009 can be attributed to the 22-24 bracket, they take up about half the applicant pool. Other brackets also declined proportionally.

Other findings: Acceptance rates have risen in all brackets, which isn’t surprising, and for the most part the number of accepted applicants who didn’t matriculate fell. Starting in 2014, more women applied to law school than men. (LSAC applicant age data don’t always correspond perfectly to its other datasets, so this finding might not be precise.)

So why the decline in high-end LSATs? As the alt-fact-mongering Law School Truth Center taught me a couple years ago, the LSAT is an equated test, so declines in test takers proportionately reduce scores. As a result, fewer people will get high (and low) LSAT scores. The end.

LSAT Tea-Leaf Reading: December 2016 Edition

The number of December LSAT takers grew to 31,340 (+7.6 percent) this administration. It’s the second period with growth after small drops in February and June 2016.

no-lsat-takers-4-testing-period-moving-sum

The four-period moving sum, which is identical to the calendar-year total, rose to 108,255 (+2.1 percent). The growth rate is a hair less than in September/October 2015 (2.2 percent). The ABA Journal summarizes the discussion of whether the jump in test takers is increased interest in law school or a result of pushing the September/October administration earlier. Ultimately, the trend speaks to more interest in law school no matter how it’s distributed. We’ll learn more someday when the LSAC publishes data on first-time test takers.

I did not predict this result. As I said about the September/October 2016 LSAT administration, I thought the New York Times article on law schools earlier this summer would reduce interest in law school. However, as I discovered a few weeks ago, many applicants appear interested solely in highly regarded law schools, so even if there’s a bump in applicants, most law schools might not hear from any of them.

Speaking of which, the LSAC reports that applicants are down about 4.2 percent compared to last year. That still puts us on track to ~53,800 applicants. Last year 56,126 people applied to law school. With the back-loaded LSAT and later application deadlines, it’s possible that more people will apply than currently predicted. Again, I recommend caution because they may not distribute their applications evenly.

Which Law Schools Are Shedding Full-Time Faculty? (2016 Edition)

Facing shrinking enrollments, many law schools have responded by cutting 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 through 2016.

no-law-school-faculty-by-type

As with previous years, I will estimate the decline in fall full-time law-school faculties among the 201 law schools that aren’t in Puerto Rico. Note, however, that it’s unclear whether the term “full-time faculty” used in the 509 information reports includes full-time employees of a law school (as defined by the ABA’s annual questionnaire) who are on leave but have a right to return. Past editions of the Official Guide explicitly excluded full-time faculty who were on leave or sabbatical from their two-page spreads, which now exist as the online 509 information reports. The “Guide to the Data” pdf file accompanying the 509 information reports doesn’t specify either.

I assume the ABA is continuing to exclude faculty on leave or sabbatical and only counts faculty teaching courses in the fall or spring terms, even though it isn’t clear. Consequently, minor fluctuations might mean even less than I thought before, and although I’m obviously aware more faculty teach in the spring, I choose to track fall full-time faculty because the figures represent more recent developments. Additionally, full-time faculty who have shifted to the category “deans, librarians, and others who teach” are excluded as well. This may explain why there are fewer full-time faculty in the fall than spring as full-timers teach most of their courses then.

The peak for fall 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. Fall full-time faculty fell by 3.3 percent this year (-261). Last year the decline was 3.4 percent (-242), so things are smoothing out. Since 2010, the cumulative decline has been 16.1 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, as discussed above. This year I’m choosing not to rank law schools that have merged, split, or didn’t exist in 2010 to prevent distortions.

FULL-TIME FACULTY (FALL)
RANK SCHOOL ’10 ’15 ’16 ANNUAL CHANGE NET CHANGE
1. WMU Cooley 101 44 41 -3 -60
N/A Rutgers-Camden 54 36 -36 -54
2. American 104 91 52 -39 -52
3. John Marshall (Chicago) 75 45 27 -18 -48
4. Florida Coastal 69 37 24 -13 -45
N/A Rutgers-Newark 40 37 -37 -40
N/A Penn State (Dickinson Law) 57 19 18 -1 -39
5. George Washington 106 70 69 -1 -37
N/A Hamline 34 10 -10 -34
N/A William Mitchell 34 22 -22 -34
6. St. Louis 65 45 34 -11 -31
7. Catholic 56 32 27 -5 -29
8. Seton Hall 59 37 32 -5 -27
8. Vermont 55 27 28 1 -27
8. Seattle 66 47 39 -8 -27
11. Widener (Delaware) 50 31 24 -7 -26
11. New York Law School 71 48 45 -3 -26
13. Pacific, McGeorge 63 34 39 5 -24
14. Pace 47 30 25 -5 -22
14. Cleveland State 39 19 17 -2 -22
16. Santa Clara 65 45 44 -1 -21
16. DePaul 56 32 35 3 -21
16. Hofstra 60 34 39 5 -21
19. Nova Southeastern 60 48 40 -8 -20
19. New England 40 26 20 -6 -20
21. Golden Gate 42 25 23 -2 -19
21. Texas 103 80 84 4 -19
23. California-Berkeley 90 68 72 4 -18
23. Stetson 59 45 41 -4 -18
23. Valparaiso 35 30 17 -13 -18
23. Suffolk 80 61 62 1 -18
23. Western New England 36 18 18 0 -18
23. Capital 35 23 17 -6 -18
23. Wisconsin 65 55 47 -8 -18
30. California Western 45 35 28 -7 -17
30. Boston University 67 50 50 0 -17
30. Detroit Mercy 42 25 25 0 -17
30. Syracuse 60 37 43 6 -17
30. Charleston 31 16 14 -2 -17
35. Chapman 51 40 35 -5 -16
35. Atlanta’s John Marshall 35 22 19 -3 -16
35. Albany 46 28 30 2 -16
35. Lewis and Clark 53 40 37 -3 -16
35. Villanova 49 31 33 2 -16
35. Houston 76 61 60 -1 -16
41. Arizona Summit [Phoenix] 32 7 17 10 -15
41. Hawaii 35 30 20 -10 -15
41. Fordham 81 65 66 1 -15
44. Louisiana State 41 30 27 -3 -14
44. Maryland 63 49 49 0 -14
44. St. John’s 50 37 36 -1 -14
44. Oklahoma City 34 22 20 -2 -14
48. Arizona 44 32 31 -1 -13
48. Arkansas (Little Rock) 30 21 17 -4 -13
48. Loyola (CA) 66 57 53 -4 -13
48. Thomas Jefferson 42 35 29 -6 -13
48. Whittier 31 31 18 -13 -13
48. Dayton 27 16 14 -2 -13
48. Regent 25 10 12 2 -13
55. Miami 82 72 70 -2 -12
55. SUNY Buffalo 54 27 42 15 -12
55. Touro 42 31 30 -1 -12
55. North Carolina Central 42 31 30 -1 -12
55. Akron 33 22 21 -1 -12
55. Widener (Commonwealth) 25 14 13 -1 -12
55. Marquette 39 27 27 0 -12
62. Faulkner 23 12 12 0 -11
62. Georgia 51 40 40 0 -11
62. Illinois 49 43 38 -5 -11
62. Loyola (IL) 60 51 49 -2 -11
62. Southern University 35 25 24 -1 -11
62. Tulsa 28 22 17 -5 -11
62. Roger Williams 27 14 16 2 -11
62. Gonzaga 29 21 18 -3 -11
70. La Verne 19 10 9 -1 -10
70. Connecticut 52 44 42 -2 -10
70. Quinnipiac 32 20 22 2 -10
70. Ave Maria 26 20 16 -4 -10
70. Loyola (LA) 50 42 40 -2 -10
75. San Diego 66 53 57 4 -9
75. Florida State 47 39 38 -1 -9
75. Iowa 46 34 37 3 -9
75. Kansas 35 30 26 -4 -9
75. Tulane 53 40 44 4 -9
75. Mississippi College 26 24 17 -7 -9
75. Campbell 23 17 14 -3 -9
75. Temple 63 60 54 -6 -9
75. Southern Methodist 46 37 37 0 -9
75. Appalachian 16 7 7 0 -9
85. Northern Kentucky 28 24 20 -4 -8
85. New Hampshire 33 28 25 -3 -8
85. Brooklyn 68 60 60 0 -8
85. Ohio Northern 22 12 14 2 -8
85. Oregon 35 29 27 -2 -8
90. Indiana (Bloomington) 59 52 52 0 -7
90. Indiana (Indianapolis) 41 34 34 0 -7
90. Boston College 51 50 44 -6 -7
90. Case Western Reserve 47 41 40 -1 -7
94. Alabama 47 40 41 1 -6
94. California-Hastings 71 59 65 6 -6
94. Southwestern 57 56 51 -5 -6
94. Washburn 31 27 25 -2 -6
94. Baltimore 58 58 52 -6 -6
94. Pittsburgh 47 43 41 -2 -6
94. Washington and Lee 35 26 29 3 -6
101. Southern California 43 39 38 -1 -5
101. Mercer 27 26 22 -4 -5
101. Chicago-Kent, IIT 66 65 61 -4 -5
101. Minnesota 58 57 53 -4 -5
101. St. Thomas (MN) 29 24 24 0 -5
101. Mississippi 31 25 26 1 -5
101. Montana 19 13 14 1 -5
101. Wake Forest 48 38 43 5 -5
101. Tennessee 30 28 25 -3 -5
101. Texas Tech 35 30 30 0 -5
111. District of Columbia 21 18 17 -1 -4
111. Barry 33 34 29 -5 -4
111. Florida International 32 29 28 -1 -4
111. Louisville 26 21 22 1 -4
111. Missouri (Kansas City) 34 33 30 -3 -4
111. Washington University 68 63 64 1 -4
111. Pennsylvania 75 75 71 -4 -4
111. Texas A&M [Wesleyan] 30 30 26 -4 -4
119. Arizona State 53 49 50 1 -3
119. Arkansas (Fayetteville) 29 29 26 -3 -3
119. San Francisco 37 33 34 1 -3
119. Southern Illinois 27 22 24 2 -3
119. Drake 28 26 25 -1 -3
119. Wayne State 38 39 35 -4 -3
119. Toledo 26 20 23 3 -3
119. Duquesne 26 26 23 -3 -3
119. South Texas 44 41 41 0 -3
128. Samford 23 21 21 0 -2
128. Pepperdine 35 35 33 -2 -2
128. Florida A&M 35 20 33 13 -2
128. Kentucky 25 23 23 0 -2
128. Cincinnati 29 27 27 0 -2
128. Oklahoma 34 31 32 1 -2
128. South Dakota 14 11 12 1 -2
128. Utah 34 32 32 0 -2
128. George Mason 38 34 36 2 -2
128. Wyoming 21 22 19 -3 -2
138. California-Los Angeles 86 86 85 -1 -1
138. Michigan State 52 50 51 1 -1
138. New Mexico 28 29 27 -2 -1
138. Cardozo, Yeshiva 61 69 60 -9 -1
138. Willamette 28 26 27 1 -1
138. Vanderbilt 36 38 35 -3 -1
138. Washington 54 65 53 -12 -1
145. Creighton 23 25 23 -2 0
145. Nevada 26 27 26 -1 0
145. City University 36 37 36 -1 0
145. South Carolina 36 36 36 0 0
149. California-Davis 43 43 44 1 1
149. Western State 16 17 17 0 1
149. Howard 26 25 27 2 1
149. St. Thomas (FL) 28 30 29 -1 1
149. Notre Dame 46 47 47 0 1
149. Nebraska 26 27 27 0 1
149. Charlotte 35 48 36 -12 1
149. Duke 70 76 71 -5 1
149. North Dakota 12 15 13 -2 1
149. Baylor 27 25 28 3 1
149. Liberty 19 20 20 0 1
149. Virginia 79 80 80 0 1
161. Georgia State 57 59 59 0 2
161. Harvard 141 154 143 -11 2
161. Northeastern 36 41 38 -3 2
161. Elon 20 22 22 0 2
161. William and Mary 39 44 41 -3 2
161. West Virginia 33 34 35 1 2
167. Colorado 43 48 46 -2 3
167. Chicago 71 67 74 7 3
167. Northern Illinois 19 21 22 1 3
167. Maine 16 19 19 0 3
167. New York University 151 153 154 1 3
167. Drexel 27 27 30 3 3
167. St. Mary’s 36 29 39 10 3
174. Yale 76 71 80 9 4
174. Emory 58 68 62 -6 4
174. Missouri (Columbia) 28 30 32 2 4
174. North Carolina 42 49 46 -3 4
174. Memphis 18 22 22 0 4
174. Richmond 36 35 40 5 4
180. Idaho 21 25 26 1 5
N/A Indiana Tech 7 5 -2 5
180. Michigan 92 90 97 7 5
180. Texas Southern 30 29 35 6 5
183. Cornell 51 63 57 -6 6
183. Ohio State 42 46 48 2 6
N/A Concordia 10 8 -2 8
N/A Lincoln Memorial 9 8 -1 8
185. Brigham Young 19 27 27 0 8
186. Denver 62 69 71 2 9
187. Florida 56 68 66 -2 10
188. Georgetown 129 128 140 12 11
188. Northwestern 99 104 110 6 11
N/A Belmont 13 13 0 13
N/A Belmont 13 13 0 13
N/A Massachusetts — Dartmouth 15 14 -1 14
190. Stanford 68 91 88 -3 20
N/A Penn State (Penn State Law) 35 31 -4 31
N/A California-Irvine 35 38 3 38
N/A Mitchell|Hamline 38 38 38
191. Columbia 107 161 153 -8 46
N/A Rutgers 76 76 76
10TH PERCENTILE 23 17 17 -7 -22
25TH PERCENTILE 30 25 23 -4 -14
MEDIAN 42 33 32 -1 -6
75TH PERCENTILE 58 48 45 1 1
90TH PERCENTILE 75 68 66 4 5
MEAN 46.4 38.9 38.0 -1.3 -7.1
GROSS GAIN (^-^) 321 442
GROSS LOSS -582 -1,902
CUMULATIVE 9,093 7,894 7,633 -261 -1,460

Editorial observations:

  • WMU Cooley retains its crown as number one.
  • No. 2, American, appears to have lost 43 percent of its fall full-time faculty this year—half since 2010. This may be a misreporting by the law school.
  • The same goes for number three, John Marshall. It’s lost nearly two-thirds of its faculty since 2010.
  • I’m less surprised to see Florida Coastal next on the list.
  • No. 5, George Washington, raised a stir in 2015 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 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 twenty or so persons, it keeps its high place.
  • Whittier lost 13 full-time faculty this year, but it had gained 10 last year. Similarly, SUNY Buffalo lost 24 last year but gained 15 this year. Again, probably erratic reporting.
  • A bunch of law schools lost more than 10 full-time faculty this year that I haven’t already mentioned: Valparaiso (-13), University of Washington (-12), Charlotte (-12), St. Louis (-11), and Harvard (-11). Of these, Charlotte lost 16 last year, and Harvard gained 15 last year.
  • Arizona Summit gained back ten, and it did report part-time faculty this year. Last year it didn’t, which was clearly wrong.
  • Finally, five law schools are running with fewer than ten fall full-time faculty, La Verne (9), Lincoln Memorial (8), Concordia (8), Appalachian (7), and the doomed Indiana Tech (5).

Here are prior posts on this topic:

Full-Time Law-School Application Inequality Up in 2016

In 2016 full-time law-school applicants showed more interest in fewer law schools, according to my modified Lorenz curve. The overall Gini coefficient is up as well.

A Lorenz curve measures the cumulative distribution of a quantity in order from the smallest recipient to the largest. Usually researchers use the distribution of income among households. I’ve modified the Lorenz curve according to the U.S. News and World Report rankings for the previous year because the rankings are an independent measurement of law-school eliteness as seen by LSAT takers and applicants roughly at the time that they apply. Here is what we see.

full-time-law-school-applications-adjusted-lorenz-curve

Compared to previous years, we can see that the curve has barely nudged to the right, indicating increased inequality among full-time law-school applications. This is predictable because we already know that more the 70 percent of the rise in applications can be attributed to U.S. News‘ static top 14 law schools.

A Lorenz curve can also be used to calculate a Gini coefficient, which is the area under the Lorenz curve divided by the total area of the right triangle representing a totally equal distribution of the quantity among the recipients. In 2015, the full-time applications Gini coefficient was .431, but this year it rose to .441, up 1 point. (These figures are irrespective of the U.S. News rankings.) I’ve written on calculating Gini coefficients recently here.

Last year I was surprised that application inequality was flat because I was convinced that everyone believed there was a shortage of applicants at elite law schools. This year, applicants trended back in that direction. Maybe it will accelerate into the future.

Information on this topic from previous years:

Does Charlotte Law School Offer a Test of the Bennett Hypothesis?

The Charlotte Observer tells us that the Department of Education believes Charlotte Law School has engaged in “‘dishonest’ practices,” and as a result it is yanking CLS’s access to federal student aid by the end of the year. ED blindsided CLS—at least that’s the school’s story—but apparently its low bar-passage rates, the ABA’s probation of it, and its alleged misrepresentations to applicants and students are the culprits. Maybe CLS will successfully appeal the decision, but if it doesn’t then we’ll get the opportunity to test whether law schools absorb federal student loans and pass them back on to students, aka the Bennett hypothesis.

Okay, maybe the shock is so sudden that the school would need to scramble to balance its budget anyway (and I think the “90/10” rule applies, but I won’t go into that). However, we do know some things about how CLS’s revenue and spending.

For one, in the 2015-16 academic year a mere 31.3 percent of its full-time students paid full tuition ($41,348). Altogether, it made $8.5 million from these students. Thanks to the article and ED data, we know that last year the school was a conduit for $48.4 million: $19.1 million in direct unsubsidized Stafford loans and $29.3 million in Grad PLUS loans. Because CLS is relatively new and freestanding, it probably has no significant endowment or gift income.

Here’s how much federal loan money CLS has disbursed each year since it was founded and its revenue from full-time students paying full tuition.

cls-student-loan-disbursements-and-revenue

Note: CLS’s numbers of full-time students paying full tuition appear erratic for unknown reasons, probably misreporting by the law school, but that’s CLS’s problem, not mine.

And here’s how much it disbursed per student (including non-recipients), along with the weighted-average full tuition between full-time and part-time students. Not everyone borrows each type of loan, but the chart gives a sense of how much students are paying for both their educations and living expenses on top of that.

federal-loans-disbursed-per-cls-student

CLS is an unusual case because it was founded around the time odious Grad PLUS loans came into being. Its budget is undoubtedly acclimated to them and probably can’t be balanced without them. Moreover, I think I’ve underemphasized how crucial it is that they pay for law students’ living expenses. Without that, students would not be able to go to law school. Nevertheless, the Bennett hypothesis tells us that if this school is to remain in business as an ABA-accredited school but without access to federal loans, then we should expect it to charge much, much less than it currently does. Although, it may offset costs by encouraging students to borrow from private lenders, whose loans will not be dischargeable and probably require co-signers.

I doubt CLS is as bloated as an elite law school is, but it will soon cost a lot less to attend if it wants to stay in business. Unfortunately, I suspect liberals will see CLS’s downfall as a victory over predatory for-profit colleges rather than evidence that federal loans help law schools more than students. Still, it’s a victory. Maybe Infilaw will get the message that many nonprofit law schools should’ve years ago.

Finally, in passing I notice that CLS’s enrollment is quite lopsided: 452 women to 260 men. The mainstream discussion on law school enrollment in 2016 is emphasizing how women now outnumber men. Without CLS, the margin falls to a sliver. It’s a notable finding, but I’d like it if the coverage drew more attention to the fact that men attend more prestigious law schools (some articles do). I don’t see it as a milestone for the profession because it’s pretty clear that schools like CLS enroll a larger proportion of women—and schools like CLS don’t offer much of a path to a professional career.

2016: Full-Time Matriculants Trickle Up

[2016-12-26: This post has been updated due to minor miscalculations.]

The ABA’s standard 509 information reports are out now. Unlike last year there is no need for preliminaries about the data. The names of the law schools line up for the most part, so users do not need to worry about combing around for Lincoln Memorial or some other new law school. They might, however, want to download reports for Hamline and William Mitchell because some calendar-year 2016 data were separately reported before the Mitchell|Hamline merger officially went into effect. As of now, there are no reports for Rutgers-Camden and Rutgers-Newark, so now Rutgers is one.

In calendar year 2016, there were 33,075 full-time matriculants to 201 ABA-accredited law schools, up 468 matriculants from 2015 (+1.4 percent). That year saw an 838-matriculant decline, so the crunch has reversed for the law schools. (These figures exclude the three law school in Puerto Rico, as I usually do.)

Full-time applicant acceptance rates are largely flat, except at the 90th percentile.

dispersion-of-full-time-law-school-applicant-acceptance-rates

Matriculant yields are up to 24.1 percent overall compared to 22.9 percent last year, but ultimately about 21 law schools account for half of the decline in matriculants since the last trough year, 2007, which I believe is a better comparison year for this measure than 2010, a peak year.

Meanwhile, application growth rates are still accelerating. At the median it’s flat.

dispersion-of-full-time-law-school-application-growth-rates

102 law schools saw a growth in applications, which is much higher than last year. First place goes to (and you’ll love this) … Indiana Tech (235.4 percent), which will close at the end of the academic year. It received 332 applications, extended only 128 offers, and admitted but 39 full-time students. Indiana Tech’s 75th percentile full-time applicant received a 152 on the LSAT. It preferred to close than accept 204 applicants (~60 percent). Numbers two and three for application growth were Florida (98.9 percent) and Concordia (71.0 percent).

Before anyone gets excited about rising law-school applications, though, I note that 72.5 percent of the rise can be attributed to U.S. News‘ top 14 law schools. Thus, things probably don’t look any better for most schools since last year. In the last two years, I’ve commented on the possibility that applicants believe that now is the best time to go to an elite law school, and while that sentiment dissipated last year, it’s back now for sure.

More on these topics later.

Here’s information on enrollments from prior years: