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July 14, 2009

"Law school pays students to stay away"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent piece from the National Law Journal.  Here are excerpts from an effective piece:

The unstable economy created a tricky situation for law school admissions offices this year. Would the downturn prompt more applicants to accept offers of admission? Would the prospect of thousands of dollars of law school debt dissuade accepted applicants from enrolling at the last minute?

Admissions officials didn't know whether they could rely upon the formulas they traditionally have used to determine how many admissions offers to extend to reach their desired incoming class size. For at least one school, experience was little help.

The University of Miami School of Law saw a significant increase in its so-called yield rate — the percentage of accepted students who enroll — and has offered incentives for students to defer their starts until the fall of 2010....

The law school was aiming for an incoming class of 400 to 420 students, said university spokeswoman Karla V. Hernandez.  She would not disclose how many students the law school accepted for next fall, but said that the yield rate increased from 28% last year to 36% this year.

Those who opt to delay for a year will receive a $5,000 scholarship when they complete 120 hours of public service and will have a better chance at receiving a $75,000 scholarship, among other incentives.

Officials at the Law School Admissions Council declined to comment on Miami's situation, but a spokeswoman said it's not unheard of for schools to grapple with an undesirably large incoming class. "When some schools find themselves with more depositors than they expected, it's common to invite students to defer," said counsel spokeswoman Wendy Margolis.  However, it is unusual for a law school to offer deferral incentives to its entire incoming class, according to Sarah Zearfoss, assistant dean and director of admissions at the University of Michigan Law School....

Law school applications were up overall this year, but they didn't surge the way many had predicted. Conventional wisdom holds that more people seek out graduate programs during bad economic times to avoid a tough job market. According to the admissions council, law school applications increased nationally by 4.3%.

I would be eager to hear more about Miami's experience here and also about any other schools being as innovative as Miami in dealing with this new numbers problem.  I suspect that this story is just one of many potential examples of how necessity becomes the mother of law school innovation.

Posted by DAB

July 14, 2009 in Admissions to law school | Permalink

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