Belated Law Geek Wednesday: Law School Applications on the Decline

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Apologies for not posting anything yesterday. It was a busy day. I had to kill some dudes.

Anyway, the Volokh conspiracy is linking to this story, which reports that law school applications are declining for the first time in eight years, and then proceeds to quote a bunch of idiots who propose reasons why. The fact that the article jumps almost immediately to David E. Kelly, and then spends two paragraphs quoting him, is rather disturbing. But the rest of the article isn't much better.

When I was applying in 2001 there was a lot of hooey about how many other directionless college graduates were seeking shelter from the jobless economy in the sweet bosom of law schools. The several schools that gently turned me down made a point of telling me that a jillion other people had also applied to make me feel better about not getting in (which inspired "Episode 2" in this transparent plea for sympathy), and the acceptance letters contained similar comments to make me feel like hot shit. Neither approach did much for me either way.

But back to the article. As far as I can tell, the theories that the geniuses at the New York Times decided to include in their article to explain the decline in law school applications are: (1) Lawyers discouraging people from going to law school, (2) television, (3) student loans (hell, this was the reason I went to law school -- I wasn't going to get rid of my undergrad loans teaching high school Physics, that's for damn sure), (4) more people are going to medical school (something that nobody could have predicted, since medical school, just like law school, has no undergraduate prerequisites), and (5) polar bears.

I'll leave you with this quote from David E. Kelly, the latter portion of which was omitted from the article:

"I personally still have a very glamorous view of the law. But maybe that's because I'm out of it, and I get to write about what I would like the practice of law to be. I'm not a lawyer. I haven't been to law school in decades. I know nothing about what you're asking me. Why are you talking to me again?"

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If someone came up to me and said "law school apps are at an 8-year low" and I wanted to give them an answer without doing any real research (research journalism is so mid-20th century), I'd guess it's the combined effect of drastic increases in law school tuition in recent years (as public schools depend more on tuition than state funding, allowing private schools to follow suit) and the horrid student loan provisions of the "Deficit Reduction Act" that will go into effect this July. Apparently, federal spending on student loans accounts for about one-half of 1 percent of the federal budget, but the cuts to the student loan program amout to 30 percent of the proposed budget cuts ( about $12.7 billion). Additionally, the DRA will prohibit in-school loan consolidation, preventing students from locking in favorable interest rates as soon as their last loan dispersements are made, and it will also prevent loan reconsolidation. To further inconvenience students, Stafford loan rates are going up from 4.7%to 6.8% and PLUS loans are going from 6.1% to 8.5%. In short, law school is EXPENSIVE and is getting harder and more expensive to finance now than anytime in recent history. If that doesn't deter kids already saddled with undergrad loans, then maybe the polar bears will.

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This page contains a single entry by hb published on February 9, 2006 12:47 PM.

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