Changes Needed to Finance Legal Education: Report

Photo by jarmoluk (Pixabay)

The American Bar Association released a report on Friday that calls for better debt counseling for law students and changes to provide more affordable legal education.

The report, produced by the ABA Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education, said the decline in law school enrollment, tuition hikes and mounting student debt paint “a sobering picture” of the challenges facing legal education.

Between 2009 and 2015, 30 percent fewer people entered a private law school, and 18 percent fewer entered a public law school, resulting in a smaller pool of tuition money for law schools to run their operations, the report said.”The near-term job market for new law school graduates appears far from robust,” it added.

As far as tuition hikes, between 1999 and 2015, public law school in-state tuition increased 104 percent while private law school tuition increased by 29 percent. Tuition is still growing, but more law schools are offering discounts.

In positive news, the two percent default rate on loans for law school is lower than the default rate on loans for bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and other degrees, according to the 15-member task force, formed in May 2014 and chaired by former ABA President Dennis Archer.

On debt counseling, the report stressed that it is “important that students who borrow student loans to fund their legal education be informed consumers” and called upon the ABA’s law school accrediting body to require schools to provide debt counseling services that exceed those now required by the U.S. Department of Education.

It also called on the accrediting agency to collect and release more information about law schools, from expenditure and revenue data, to information about financial aid. It also offered examples of operational improvements at law schools and urged them to experiment with new business models to reduce costs.