| MAY 16, 2015
| MAY 16, 2015
Announced in late April, NU’s Interest Freedom Plan calls for the school to pay the first year of law school loan interest payments for unemployed graduates and graduates making less than $85,000 per year in the private sector. The program will start with the class of 2015 and is guaranteed for the three subsequent graduating classes, said Don Rebstock, Law’s associate dean of enrollment management, career strategy and marketing.
NU estimates about 15 percent of each graduating class — about 40 individuals — will benefit from the IFP, Rebstock said. He said the changing legal marketplace has left fewer graduated with more lucrative job opportunities than were available in the past.
“This program hopefully gives people more freedom in being able to pursue (less lucrative) positions and diversify their options,” he said.
Rebstock said he expects most graduates to continue to take jobs closer to the median salary for a Law graduate — around $160,000 per year. The program would not cover interest payments for graduates who make more than $85,000.
“I don’t think it’s a big benefit,” Alex Holt, an education policy analyst at the New America think tank, said about the program. “There’s nothing wrong with it. It just seems a little bit more like a gimmick to me than anything else.”
Holt said the program doesn’t do much to solve the problem of the massive debt incurred by students because it has a “fairly limited benefit.”
NU Law graduates currently hold the third-highest average debt among law schools at more than $160,000, with 80 percent of students graduating with debt, according to U.S. News & World Report. Across the country, law school graduates have the second-highest average debt among professional students at $140,616, according to a 2014 New America study.
“One of the reasons you’re willing to take on that debt is that you’re investing in something that has a relatively high return rate, even if you’re taking on a bigger amount of loans,” said Marco Minichiello, the president of NU’s Student Bar Association.
Although appreciative of the program, Minichiello, who just finished his first year at Law, doesn’t anticipate the program will majorly influence students and is skeptical about its impact on average debt. Minichiello said the policy would make taking a lower paying job a bit easier on students.
Holt and Rebstock said the Interest Freedom Plan is the first of its kind, so it is difficult to predict its overall impact.
Rebstock estimates the average borrowing levels for students will fall “by at least $10,000 from where it is now per student” over the three-year duration of the program.
Holt, though, doesn’t see it as a step toward solving Law students’ debt issues.
“They’re saying, ‘Look, we know you’re going to borrow $150,000 in debt so here’s this tiny little benefit to make you feel better about your decision.’ They’re not really taking responsibility,” Holt said. “A step in the right direction would be for them to lower tuition.”
Minichiello agrees with Holt’s sentiment, saying the program does not solve the problem of student debt.
“I would just want that financial aid upfront — either across the board or on merit- or need-based for people — because not only is that more appealing for people coming in, but you’re not even accruing interest (on the financial aid) because the school’s paying for more of your education,” he said.
Rebstock said Law has been at the forefront of top law schools in terms of tempering its tuition increases.
“There’s not necessarily a tradeoff between whether funds are allocated at the front end, like financial aid, or back end, like IFP,” Rebstock said.
Students who take less lucrative positions will be specifically targeted by the Interest Freedom Plan “to even things out,” he said.
The collaboration between the world’s largest maker of health-care products and the division of medical ethics at New York University Langone Medical Center will start with one medicine. If successful, the company will expand the initiative, said Chief Medical Officer Joanne Waldstreicher.
The approach involves creating a panel of medical experts, patient advocates and ethicists to establish a clear and fair method to distribute the drugs, said Art Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at NYU. Medications that are under development are often in short supply and used primarily in clinical trials, making it difficult for patients who don’t qualify for the studies to get treatment.
Johnson & Johnson declined to disclose the name of the first drug that will be involved in the collaboration. The independent group, called the Compassionate-Use Advisory Committee, or CompAC, will make recommendations to J&J’s Janssen drug unit on which patients should receive treatment. The company will retain the final authority over distributing the medicine. The recommendations won’t be made public and the decisions will be conveyed directly to the patients’ doctors.
“There will be none of this, ‘Call the governor, call your rich brother-in-law’ kind of thing,” Caplan said. “I understand why people seek out these drugs, why they go online and do everything they can to help their child or themselves. But that’s not a system. This will level the playing field.”
Compassionate use — treating seriously sick patients with unproven drugs — can involve many patients, such as deciding who got access to experimental drugs for Ebola when the outbreak was ravaging West Africa months ago. It can also impact individuals like Josh Hardy, a 7-year-old kidney cancer patient who was dying from a respiratory virus last year when his family took to social media in a successful campaign to get access to Chimerix Inc.’s brincidofovir.
J&J has several novel drugs that are being closely watched by patients and investors, including daratumumab and Imbruvica for blood cancer and ARN-509 for prostate cancer. Some medications already on the market are being studied for other ailments, including the anti-clotting drug Xarelto, diabetes medicine Invokana, the psoriasis treatment Stelara and the cancer drug Zytiga.
Requests will come in to J&J and be reviewed to see if the patient qualifies for a study or an expanded access program. For those who don’t, the company will send their information to the NYU group for a review, said Amrit Ray, chief medical officer of Janssen.
“This comes at a time when we are seeing innovation in science offering great potential for patients,” Ray said in a telephone interview. “There is a need that the process for requests is fair and transparent. This is very much about doing the right thing.”
The advisory committee may choose a lottery or randomized approach to recommending which patients should get treatment, Caplan said. It could also put a priority on age, other ailments, who is sickest or test results that could indicate which patients are most likely to benefit.
“Everybody can’t get the drug. There just won’t be enough of it,” Caplan said. “We have to let this experienced group have a go at it. I want people to trust the panel and believe they are honest brokers.”
Law school used to be a ticket to a somewhat lucrative lifestyle in the United States. At the very least, graduates could expect to be employed as lawyers. But that hasn’t been true for the class of 2010.
It was bad when they graduated, in the midst of a recession, with more than 10% of the class still jobless nine months later. Five years on, the outlook for these young lawyers remains pretty grim, according to Ohio State Moritz College of Law professor Deborah Jones Merritt. She pored through data from Ohio graduates admitted to the bar in a recent paper, and compared their progress with that of the class of 2000—which did much better, despite also graduating during a recession.
For the 2010 graduates, the job situation has barely improved, despite years of work experience and economic growth. And that year, the average law school graduate left school with $100,401 in debt.
Even for the class of 2000, some of those who had jobs nine months after graduation were not practicing law, but the number was much higher in 2010:
Five years later, the 2010 graduates have made little progress. Only 75.1% of the class of 2010 admitted to the bar in Ohio are practicing law. That’s below what the class of 2000 managed in less than a year. And it’s far lower than what the class of 2000 managed after three years: At that point, 85.3% of them were practicing law.
When you dive deeper into the data, it only looks worse.
The class of 2010 have had a harder time getting jobs at private firms. Law firm jobs offer the opportunity to advance, higher pay, strong mentorship, and stability:
|Graduation year||Employed at private firm|
|Class of 2000 (after 9 months)||48.70%|
|Class of 2010 (after 9 months)||39.5%|
|Class of 2000 (after 3 years)||62.10%|
|Class of 2010 (after 4.5 years)||40.5%|
Nearly 10% of the class of 2010 in Ohio ended up in solo practice, where it’s tough for a new lawyer to get by. To make matters worse, more than half of the lawyers indicating they had a solo practice had zero internet presence advertising it. That suggests that many who claim they have a solo practice actually use the term as a proxy for unemployment, occasional client work, or a series of temporary jobs.
Some lawyers who passed the bar, Merritt found, are working full- or part-time as substitute teachers, firefighters, party planners—or even in lingerie sales, pest control, and tennis instruction.
Granted, this data is just from Ohio, but it’s unlikely that things are dramatically better elsewhere. It’s not just the recession. If that were the case, the employment picture for the class of 2010 would be much better by now. Deregulation, technology, disaggregation of legal work, use of non-lawyers, global competition, and oversupply have fundamentally weakened the labor market, Merritt says.
Enrollment in law school is down dramatically, in large part due to these outcomes, and tuition is dropping. But that’s little comfort for the students that gave up three years and took on substantial debt expecting to work as lawyers.
APRIL 26, 2015
Jonathan Wang has not practiced law since he graduated from Columbia Law School in 2010, but he did not plan it that way.
When he entered law school, the economy was flourishing, and he had every reason to think that with a prestigious degree he was headed for a secure well-paying career. He convinced his parents, who work in Silicon Valley, that he had a plan. “I would spend three years at school in New York, then work for a big law firm and make $160,000 a year,” said Mr. Wang, 29. “And someday, I would become a partner and live the good life.”
Mr. Wang, who works in Manhattan as a tutor for the law school admissions exam, is living a life far different from the one he envisioned. And he is not alone. About 20 percent of law graduates from 2010 are working at jobs that do not require a law license, according to a new study, and only 40 percent are working in law firms, compared with 60 percent from the class a decade earlier. To pay the bills, the 2010 graduates have taken on a variety of jobs, some that do not require admission to the bar; others have struck out on their own with solo practices. Most of the graduates have substantial student debt.
Even as law school enrollment was peaking in 2010 — reaching 52,488, according to American Bar Association figures — those graduating were not receiving job offers from firms where they were interning. And offers to some students were rescinded.
“None of this was on my radar,” Mr. Wang said, “but it began to be obvious by the time second-year summer internships were over. We knew things were depressed, but then the legs were cut out from under us.”
After the economic collapse in the fall of 2008, corporations began to cut spending on legal matters, and law firms, in turn, began to reduce their hiring and even laid off employees. The legal profession was undergoing the early wave of turbulence that left graduates in subsequent classes facing a harsher job market that has shown few signs of a robust recovery. But the class of 2010 was the first to experience it full force.
At the time, legal scholars predicted that when the economy turned the corner, the new graduates would find jobs. But the checkered job outcomes for the 2010 law graduates could be predicted by their early employment numbers, said Deborah J. Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law.
She wrote “What Happened to the Class of 2010? Empirical Evidence of Structural Change in the Legal Profession,” a study published in March that examined the careers of those graduates and the legal marketplace.
Professor Merritt combined public data, including court records and the employment outcomes of more than 1,200 lawyers who received their law degrees in 2010 and then passed the Ohio bar, with information from the National Association of Law Placement recorded for the same class nationally. She concluded that the 2010 class had not recovered in the ensuing years.
“Employment has improved only marginally for the class,” she said, “with unemployment at 6 percent, many fewer lawyers working at law firms and a leap in the percentage of solo practitioners.
“These outcomes contrast markedly with those from the 2000 graduating class, which was also shadowed by an economic recession but were later able to better their positions,” she said. “But that type of progress has not occurred for the Class of 2010.”
With law firms cutting back, she said, most available positions “fall within modest-paying categories: solo practice, small firms, government work and business jobs that do not require bar admission.”
And they might be the lucky ones, according to some 2010 graduates who said they were “too ashamed that I have not found a legal job” to allow their names to be mentioned. One law school graduate who said he did not want to draw attention to his lack of permanent employment said he was “doing rote legal temp work on the side to pay rent.”
“I dare not put it on my résumé because it makes you instantly nonprestigious and unemployable,” he added.
Others, like G. Troy Pickett, 44, of Houston, who worked as a bartender in Austin before going back to school with the intent of becoming a big-firm mergers and acquisitions lawyer, opted to set up their own practices.
“I began to realize that I had set the bar too high, but I kept thinking that if I could get my foot in the door, I could do it,” he said of his decision to attend South Texas College of Law in Houston.
Then he saw that fewer firms were recruiting on campus and job offers were evaporating.
“It was a double whammy. Our class was also competing with third- and fourth-year associates who had been laid off,” he said. He took the Texas bar exam six months early while still in law school to save time and money. The same day he passed, in June 2010, he and a fellow student formed a law practice, which handles family law issues like divorces and child custody.
Another 2010 graduate, Hyatt Shirkey, 30, who received his diploma in May 2010 from Ohio State’s law school, moved to Virginia, where he passed the bar the following July, and decided to open his own practice after juggling several jobs.
“When I started law school, it was still a great era,” he said. “I had some good experiences, including working for a federal judge in Columbus, Ohio. Then, the end of my second year in school, I saw that law firm offers were being pushed back.”
“There was a glut of people in the job market, and the only job I could find did not require a law license,” added Mr. Shirkey, who first ran the paralegal studies program for a private college in Roanoke, Va. He eventually found work at the Roanoke public defender’s office but kept his part-time job at the paralegal program and another as a server at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.
Since then, he found a job teaching contract law at a local community college and opened a solo practice in criminal defense to “build up my experience and reputation” so he could qualify for an opening in the United States attorney’s office. For now, he receives referrals for cases that the public defender cannot take on, but he said practicing on his own was uncertain financially. And, like more than 80 percent of law school graduates, he has substantial student debt.
Over all, nearly 85 percent of law graduates have taken out student loans, according to the website Law School Transparency, and 2010 law graduates accumulated debt averaging $77,364 at public law schools and $112,007 at private ones.
Many have received financial hardship deferments or, like Mr. Shirkey, who accumulated $328,000 in student debt, including some undergraduate loans, received credits for public interest work. Federal government rules, revised last year, allow student borrowers who work in nonprofit and public sector jobs to have their loans forgiven after 10 years and to pay back their college loans based on their income and expenses.
“Otherwise, I would be very, very much in a pickle,” Mr. Shirkey said. “I anticipate that I will wind up working for the government or a nonprofit because I will need the credits to take care of my loan burden.
“Every time I look at the debt amount,” he said, “my heart beats a little harder.”
After he graduated, Mr. Wang had a yearlong fellowship with a state court judge, but when that ended in 2011, the “market was still awful,” he said. After he was admitted to the New York State bar, he turned to tutoring and law school advising to pay his rent and loans.
“I thought the LSAT tutoring gig was going to be a temporary thing, but five years and one bar admission renewal later, here I am,” he said. His business has greatly expanded and he makes over $100 an hour, but that is far below what he would make at a law firm. “I waffle constantly, but I’m still in the mind-set that I need to find a real job,” he said.
A year ago, my boss announced that our large New York ad agency would be moving to an open office. After nine years as a senior writer, I was forced to trade in my private office for a seat at a long, shared table. It felt like my boss had ripped off my clothes and left me standing in my skivvies.
Our new, modern Tribeca office was beautifully airy, and yet remarkably oppressive. Nothing was private. On the first day, I took my seat at the table assigned to our creative department, next to a nice woman who I suspect was an air horn in a former life. All day, there was constant shuffling, yelling, and laughing, along with loud music piped through a PA system. As an excessive water drinker, I feared my co-workers were tallying my frequent bathroom trips. At day’s end, I bid adieu to the 12 pairs of eyes I felt judging my 5:04 p.m. departure time. I beelined to the Beats store to purchase their best noise-cancelling headphones in an unmistakably visible neon blue.
Despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country. Now, about 70 percent of U.S. offices have no or low partitions, according to the International Facility Management Association. Silicon Valley has been the leader in bringing down the dividers. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs and American Express are all adherents. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisted famed architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers. And as a businessman, Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. He famously carried the model into city hall when he became mayor of New York, making “the Bullpen” a symbol of open communication and accessibility to the city’s chief.
These new floor plans are ideal for maximizing a company’s space while minimizing costs. Bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on their employees, ensuring clandestine porn-watching, constant social media-browsing and unlimited personal cellphone use isn’t occupying billing hours. But employers are getting a false sense of improved productivity. A 2013 studyfound that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy. Meanwhile, “ease of interaction” with colleagues — the problem that open offices profess to fix — was cited as a problem by fewer than 10 percent of workers in any type of office setting. In fact, those with private offices were least likely to identify their ability to communicate with colleagues as an issue. In a previous study, researchers concluded that “the loss of productivity due to noise distraction … was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices.”
The New Yorker, in a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction. Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness. In addition to the distractions, my colleagues and I have been more vulnerable to illness. Last flu season took down a succession of my co-workers like dominoes.
As the new space intended, I’ve formed interesting, unexpected bonds with my cohorts. But my personal performance at work has hit an all-time low. Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults. Those who have worked in private offices for decades have proven to be the most vociferous and rowdy. They haven’t had to consider how their loud habits affect others, so they shout ideas at each other across the table and rehash jokes of yore. As a result, I can only work effectively during times when no one else is around, or if I isolate myself in one of the small, constantly sought-after, glass-windowed meeting rooms around the perimeter.
If employers want to make the open-office model work, they have to take measures to improve work efficiency. For one, they should create more private areas — ones without fishbowl windows. Also, they should implement rules on when interaction should be limited. For instance, when a colleague has on headphones, it’s a sign that you should come back another time or just send an e-mail. And please, let’s eliminate the music that blankets our workspaces. Metallica at 3 p.m. isn’t always compatible with meeting a 4 p.m. deadline.
On the other hand, companies could simply join another trend — allowing employees to work from home. That model has proven to boost productivity, with employees working more hours and taking fewer breaks. On top of that, there are fewer interruptions when employees work remotely. At home, my greatest distraction is the refrigerator.
Source: Washington Post
No single fact can settle the long-running debate of whether public or private health insurance is preferable. But by one basic metric, the rate of increase in per capita spending, public insurance has an edge.
The Federal Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has charted the annual rate of increase in spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance. As the chart above shows, by cumulative growth in per capita spending, Medicare and Medicaid have generally grown more slowly than private insurance and are projected to continue doing so through 2023. Per capita spending is an especially useful measure for comparing public and private health insurance spending because it shows how much Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers spend on each person irrespective of the number of people covered.
Advocates of public coverage tend to like its relative simplicity, uniform guaranteed benefits, and lower overhead costs, as well as the ability of large public insurance programs to use their purchasing power to leverage changes in the health-care system. Advocates of private coverage favor the greater choice it can offer consumers and the competition that can foster in the marketplace. For some people, preferences for public or private coverage are largely ideological.
When it comes to analyzing health spending, there are always multiple factors at play. Sometimes changing demographics can have a role. As younger baby boomers join Medicare, the average amount that the program spends per beneficiary will be slightly reduced over the next decade. Overall, however, it appears that public programs control per capita spending somewhat more effectively than private coverage does. That may be just the opposite of what many would presume in a country where the private market is generally expected to outperform the public sector.
Here’s another way to think about it: While Medicare and Medicaid are far from perfect, the purchasing power and policy levers available to large public programs appear to give them an edge over our fragmented private insurance system when it comes to controlling spending.
In 2009, 40 percent of Harvard Law School’s entering class, according to data provided the school’s Admissions Office, arrived directly from their senior year of college, maybe even still sporting the odd T-shirt from last year’s big rivalry football game.
It was the continuation of a years-long trend: From 2005 to 2009, between 39 and 45 percent of each incoming class were just recently undergraduates, with the remainder having spent at least one year working or studying elsewhere. But the next year, in 2010, the young students matriculating straight from undergrad only constituted 28 percent of the entering Law School class. More than two-thirds had post-graduate experience.
Roughly three-fourths of each incoming class of Harvard Law School students have come to campus with some post-college experience for the last several years.
The change was not a fluke. When Martha L. Minow assumed her position as the new dean of the Law School in July of 2009, priorities, at least in the admissions process, shifted.
“When I became dean, I directed our admissions team to give extra weight to applicants with experience since college,” Minow wrote in an email.
Now, since after 2009, roughly three-fourths of each incoming class of Harvard Law students comes to campus having spent some time beyond their college campuses. It’s a change Minow and Jessica L. Soban ’02, chief admissions officer at the Law School, broadcast as a way to enhance the Harvard Law School experience for students, allowing them to cultivate a better sense of their interests and bring a more experienced perspective to the classroom.
Professors, deans, and students at the Law School largely corroborate this claim, and for the next generation of students the message is increasingly clear: If you want to go to Harvard Law School, it is a pretty good idea—if not an absolute necessity—to get a job first.
AN ACTIVE PREFERENCE
For Soban, a former Crimson business editor who has served as chief admissions officer at the Law School since 2012, the emphasis on work experience has shaped the way her office approaches admissions to the school.
“[Work experience] is something we actively preference and look for in the application process,” she said.
In addition to reaching out more to employers and adjusting the rhetoric at information sessions for undergraduates, the Law School has launched new initiatives aimed at bringing an older and more experienced group of students to the school each year.
In 2013, the school launched its Junior Deferral program, in which Harvard College juniors can apply to the Law School under the condition that, if they are accepted, they work for at least two years before coming back to campus. Soban said the launch of the program, which is still in its pilot stage, was “100 percent” part of the effort to bring students to the Law School already having worked for a few years.
Though these recent efforts may indicate otherwise, Soban maintained that winning admission into the Law School is not necessarily more difficult for students coming straight from college.
“For someone who doesn’t have work experience, it’s not harder per se,” Soban said. “But I want to see in an application that you have those same characteristics, and you have that kind of experience and focus, and not that Law School is a default option for you.”
She also said that she encourages students admitted straight out of college to make use of the school’s deferral policy, which allows them to defer attendance a year or two in “almost every situation requested,” Soban wrote in an email.
Soban emphasized that the time between college and Law School is not a “gap year”—she said she wants to see applicants “actually engaging in active employment, or in active graduate study.”
But for others involved in the admissions process, including Richard J. Lazarus, one of the Law School professors who reviews admissions files and approves admissions, this preference for work experience can boost an applicant’s chance for success.
“At some point, I’ll start to discount the GPA, or I’ll start to discount the LSAT, because I actually see that they’re very serious about what it is, and they’re not just writing an essay,” Lazarus said. “Anyone can write an essay.”
Employment is not just an advantage in the admissions process; once applicants become students, Law School professors, students, and deans maintain that the benefits of having worked for a few years endure, both in the classroom setting and in the pursuit for a job in the law.
For Law School professor Richard H. Fallon, the difference between students with and without work experience is noticeable: He said that in his experience, “disproportionately the students that I have thought the best and most interesting were students who had some time out.”
“It’s not that this is an absolute necessity for being a first-rate law student, but my experience suggests that it’s a help,” Fallon added.
Work experience can also give students an edge in finding employment after their three years of legal studies, according to Alexa Shabecoff, the Law School’s assistant dean for public service.
“You’re just more more marketable to employers if you have work experience,” she said.
For Mark A. Weber, the assistant dean for career services, the benefit of having worked a few years is less that it gives students an advantage—he maintained that Harvard Law students do well “irrespective” of their previous experience—but that allows students to find a better sense of where exactly they plan to work.
“The real reason, I think it’s better for our students to have some time away, it gives them a better perspective, a better perspective as they’re exploring their options,” he said.
“They have more of a crystallized focus of what they want to do and why they are here,” he added.
A SENSE OF PURPOSE
For Soban and current Law School students, working for a couple of years proves to be an important to shape a sense of purpose for the graduate degree. But in addition to ensuring the Law School does not become a “default option,” students said it has allowed them to better balance the application process and avoid “burnout.”
C. Taylor Poor ’12, a second-year Law School student and pre-law tutor in Eliot House, worked for a mental health advocacy organization for a year prior to law school.
“I think the biggest help for me…was that it gave me kind of a reason to keep going, and a very specific person for why I was at law school,” she said. When she advises students, Poor said she emphasizes the value of this sense of purpose, which often, but not necessarily, arrives after having worked and explored for a few years.
“You don’t need law school,” she said. “Law school is a deliberate choice.”
For Taylor A. C. Lane ’11, who is a first-year Law School student and a pre-law tutor in Leverett House, said that work experience helped her to gauge the necessity of the law school degree to achieve her career goals.
“It really tested how much I wanted to go back to law school. And so I think that was very healthy—law school is a big investment. It’s a pre-professional school,” she said.
Katherine A. Divasto ’16, a Harvard undergraduate who said that she plans to attend law school but not necessarily Harvard’s, said taking time away from academic pursuits will help her focus on her studies now and her application later.
“I worry that if I were to go straight on it would be a little bit too much,” she said.
—Source: The Harvard Crimson by Andrew M. Duehren who can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.
There’s no shortage of lawyers in this country. Only 57 percent of 2013 law school graduates obtained full-time legal jobs nine months after graduation. Yet the federal government subsidizes the production of even more lawyers by lending the cost of attendance to basically anyone who decides to enroll in law school, without regard for the quality of the school or the job prospects of its graduates. A student going to Harvard Law School, where 86.9 percent of 2013 grads had full-time legal jobs, has the same access to federal funds as a student going to Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where just 22.9 percent of 2013 grads work as lawyers.
This policy is hurting students. Federally subsidized loans have enabled law school tuition to spiral out of control. As noted by Professor Paul Campos, “[i]n real, inflation-adjusted terms, tuition at private American law schools has doubled over the past 20 years, tripled over the past 30, and quadrupled over the past 40,” and resident tuition at public law schools has climbed even faster. So long as the federal loans keep coming, tuition is unlikely to stop rising. In the words of Professor Brian Tamanaha, author of “Failing Law Schools,” “Federal loans are an irresistible (and life-sustaining) drug for revenue addicted law schools … law schools have been ramping up tuition and enrollment without restraint thanks to an obliging federal loan program.”
If the government were to stop lending for law school or even just impose per-student or per-school caps on loan amounts (perhaps combined with making it easier to discharge student loans in bankruptcy), law schools would have to dramatically lower tuition, in order to attract students. There would be no other way for most students to finance their education. (And many law schools are already struggling to fill their seats.) Private lenders might step into the breach – but carefully, because banks have a stronger interest than the government in actually getting repaid. Private lenders would focus on borrowers going to law schools with strong job placement records. And if banks are unwilling to lend to all law students, that’s further proof that the market produces too many lawyers.
Of course, the nation does have a significant “justice gap,” or a severe shortage of lawyers willing or able to serve the poor (or even middle class), to practice in certain (often rural) communities, or to work in public-interest careers. To address this problem, the federal government could dramatically curtail general law-school lending but set aside some money to lend without restriction (or even award as scholarships) to law students who commit to working in an under-served community or sector for several years after graduation. In 2013, South Dakota did just this, passing a law establishing a program that subsidizes lawyers who work in underserved rural areas for five years. The program took effect in July 2013, so it’s too early to render a verdict on its success, but according to South Dakota Chief Justice David Gilbertson, response to the program has been “beyond, quite frankly, our expectations.”
Law school administrators often respond to calls for reform by pointing the finger elsewhere. For example, why not crack down on federal loans for other types of education? Uncontrolled federal lending plagues a wide range of fields, to be sure – but if we have to pick one field in which to experiment, law school is a good place to start. According to a New America study, law school graduates have the second-highest debt burden among graduate and professional students, behind only graduates of medical school and other health-science programs. But given that our nation faces a shortage of doctors (which may explain why unemployed doctors are rare compared to unemployed lawyers), now is not the time to discourage people from pursuing medical education. Student loan reform should logically start with law school and then expand to other sectors, applying any lessons learned from the legal-education pilot program.
Lawyer jokes and “Better Call Saul” notwithstanding, the law is a noble profession – but it’s also an oversubscribed one, due in large part to excessive federal lending. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the first thing we do, let’s defund all the lawyers.
Source: Washington Post
Stanford University has received a lot of attention for offering free tuition to students whose families make less than $125,000 — throwing in free room and board for those earning less than $65,000.
But there is a trend that could have a larger impact on college pricing. Small- and medium-sized private universities have been slashing tuition for all students in an effort to reverse sliding enrollment numbers. And while these schools are not as prestigious as Stanford, their willingness to cut prices could signal a shift in the cost of higher education.
Nearly a dozen private colleges reduced tuition for the current academic year. Southern Virginia University, for instance, cut tuition and fees 23 percent from $18,900 to $14,600 a year, while Converse College in South Carolina brought down its prices by 43 percent to $16,500 a year.
Back when these schools announced their plans in 2013, they said the new prices were closer to what most students were actually paying after factoring in grants and scholarships. Still, they said they expected the reduction in price to save money for most families.
Lowering tuition is a risky strategy for schools because families often equate price with prestige. To maintain the perception of quality, private universities got in the habit of raising tuition but offering deep discounts through scholarships and grants. About 89 percent of the freshmen class of 2013-2014 received enough aid to cover half of their tuition at private universities, according to a study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.
But that high-tuition, deep-discount model is falling flat for small private colleges. Schools are failing to fill seats, which is bringing in less money. A recent survey by Moody’s Investor Service found that 45 percent of private universities were anticipating declines in enrollment and another quarter expected revenue from tuition to dip. The board of Sweet Briar, a women’s liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Va., recently voted to close the school because of severe budget shortfalls.
These smaller schools are under more pressure largely because they don’t have the huge endowments of places like Harvard and Stanford. Those gold-plated schools enroll an outsize proportion of wealthy students and sit on multi-billion-dollar endowments that make it a lot easier to let some students forego tuition payments. (Stanford students will have to pay $5,000 each year, even if they qualify for the tuition benefit.)
Stanford has an endowment of $21 billion, compared to the median private college endowment of $26.2 million. The economic crisis pummeled the endowments of most colleges and universities, with many suffering 25 percent declines in value, according to an analysis of data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Many schools have not fully recovered.
There’s no guarantee that lower costs will attract more students, and cutting prices won’t solve the problem of rising costs. But the status quo doesn’t appear sustainable. Families have grown sensitive to price increases in this uneven economic recovery. Tuition has risen faster than inflation at a time when wages have remained flat. If the schools that have cut prices start to see a few years of enrollment growth, more universities could get on board.