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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

August 8, 2009 in Impact on law school decision-making | Permalink


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Easy. Go electronic.

No books. No buildings. No faculty, except for the best lecturer in the country on a specific subject in a video broadcast, permanently on Youtube in case a student missed the lecture. Questions, answers, and thought provoking for students around the country, in chat room.

Meet in a regional or local hotel meeting room to give proctored tests, and have them scored by test scorers, paid by the test, with validation by sample rescoring by the expert in the subject. What about learning argumentation on one's feet in front of an audience? Do real world argumentation. Have students do real lawyer work for real lawyers, paying the latter for teaching real world lawyering to the student.

Tuition may then drop to about a couple of thousand pezzuzzas a year. That would be the biggest innovation, but is least likely. If faculty are scholars too good to just teach, let them spend the half time they do writing law review articles, running down our country, in their free, unpaid time, or get grants from left wing foundations for the time spent on scholarship.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Aug 9, 2009 11:25:20 PM

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