Sunday, May 1, 2011

Need for Regulation of Law Schools Intensifies

Today's NY Times article by David Segal's article - How Law Students Lose the Grant Game as Law Schools Win - once again points to the need for additional regulation of law schools. The article details the process by which law schools woo students with high GPAs and LSAT scores with promises of grants only to have those grants dry up when the students find they can't make the grade.

Here's how it works. Highly qualified students are awarded what amount to fully paid tuition scholarships. The only catch is that they have to continue to maintain a high GPA in law school in order to continue receiving the grant. What the schools don't disclose is that it is extremely difficult for a student to make the grade. A large percentage then lose the scholarship. How is this a problem?

First, transferring from one law school to another is truly difficult. Once you're in a school, you're usually in for the full three years. If you got hooked with free tuition for a year you might suddenly find that you are enrolled at a school with tuition so high you can't afford to finish the last two years or finishing becomes an even greater financial burden.

Second, the motivation of the school in failing to make the disclosure is highly suspect. By admitting students with higher GPAs and LSAT scores, that school's US News and World Report ranking can go up. Students may find themselves to be pawns in a huge game of rankings chess.

In fairness, it should be noted that students could be better consumers. A little investigation would show how grades are awarded.

And, a quick reality check would indicate that the likelihood of maintaining the same kinds of grades as a law student as an undergrad is unsustainable. Students forget that everyone applying to law school has high grades. Good performance as an undergrad is no guarantee of good performance as a law student.

Still, this is an easy issue to resolve. Law schools should be required to disclose to the uninitiated that classes are graded on a curve and that many students lose their grants after the first year. Readers of this blog may recall earlier posts about post law school employment here, here, and here. Law schools appear to be incapable of self regulation in their pursuit of higher rankings. It is time for the ABA to take a closer look at this entire area.

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