Law schools raise tuition every year to meet operating costs, but does true success lie in the opposite direction?
The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article detailing an approach to increasing enrollment rarely seen at the collegiate level. Rather than cutting staff or reworking approaches to learning, some schools are exploring the benefits of decreasing their price tag.
Three schools profiled enjoyed first year class size boosts from 22% up to 52% after reducing the cost of tuition. These gains are amid a multi-year slump in law school enrollment. WSJ reports that enrollment levels are at 54,500 as of this month down from 87,500 in 2010.
Tuition has been steadily increasing for years. Is it perhaps reaching unsustainable levels? The drastic decreases in enrollment would suggest that some potential students find themselves unable to attend these schools due to the price tag. WSJ had this to say on the issue:
“Last year, the average tuition and fees for private law school were $41,985, compared with $25,574 in 2003, according to the American Bar Association. Over the same period, the average tuition and fees for in-state students at public institutions more than doubled—to $23,879 in 2013—while rates at some elite public schools top $50,000.”
Enrollment on the Rise….for Some
No one can deny that some schools are enjoying positive results after enacting price cuts. As of the last week of August, Pennsylvania State University’s Dickinson School of Law experienced a 46% jump in enrollment after offering $20,000 grants to all in-state students. Additionally, Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island and the University of La Verne College of Law in California experienced 28% and 22% increases in enrollment respectively.
However, some schools still experienced a decline in their enrollment levels despite cuts made to tuition. In the WSJ article, one school representative poses a question of whether schools can actually lower prices enough to even be looked at by prospective students. While the results for some of these schools certainly speak for themselves, how well this strategy works in the long run remains to be seen.
Further illustrating this point, Ohio Northern University’s Pettit College of Law suffered an 8.9% drop in enrollment despite lowering tuition by nearly $9,000. However, this blow was softened as a school representative claims that the drop would have been even more severe had they not decreased the price, WSJ reports.
What’s More Important: Enrollment or Test Scores?
Even though the majority of the effects were positive, there were still some undesirable results. Some fear that increased enrollment will inevitably lead to lower admission standards. This could lead to a weakening of the reputations of schools as well as an unsustainable influx of law school graduates in the market in the long run.
One other issue some schools observed was a decrease in the median test scores of their first year classes. According to the article, Iowa Law saw a drop of one point in the median LSAT score after introducing tuition cuts, the article reports. Curiously, Iowa Law also saw an increase in the median GPA from 3.59 up to 3.64.