August 8, 2009
How do tough times and tuition increases impact law school innovation?
This recent article from the National Law Journal, which headlined "At public law schools, tuition jumps sharply: Students may pay as much as 20% more at some state institutions," has me wondering about the relationship between lean times and law school innovation. First, here is a excerpt from the start of the article:
Double-digit tuition increases loom for students at some of the country's top public law schools. School administrators say that the unusually large tuition hikes for the coming academic year are largely spurred by cuts in public funding — with endowment losses, initiatives to improve their schools and pressure to keep up with competing institutions also playing a part.
Even with the higher tuition costs next year, public schools will remain generally cheaper than their private counterparts. But the shrinking public/private tuition gap has led administrators and professors to worry about whether public institutions are fulfilling their mission of remaining affordable....
The recession is having a "much more pervasive effect" on law school budgets than did past recessions, said Susan Westerberg Prager, executive director of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). Specifically, it's hitting hardest at law schools dependent on state appropriations or revenue from endowments.
Administrators planning substantial tuition increases note that they are putting some of that additional revenue toward financial aid. Even so, the tuition increases are bound to heighten the financial burdens of public law school students, who already graduate with an average of $71,436 in law school debt, according to the latest available statistics from the American Bar Association.
There is, of course, the old cliche that necessity is the mother of invention. Thus, one might expect and hope that law schools needing to make less money go farther would develop cost-effective new programming for its students. And yet, I have an inkling that tough times might lead deans and faculties to be more conservative in their ways based on the (justified?) fear that prospective law students are now more likely to demand more traditional forms of instruction for their law school dollar.
Posted by DAB