It’s hard to belive, but some law schools are struggling to pay their bills, even though they’re charging about $50,000 in tuition, and increasing tuiton by about 4 to 5 percent per year.
Take for example the struggles at the University of Minnesota:
The simple reason is that schools like Minnesota are struggling is that there are not enough people going to law school. Minnesota has responded by cutting staff, reducing faculty, and reducing tuition and class sizes.
So what should you do as an applicant in the face of this information?
The great news is that Minnesota is willing to spend money to make money. They’re spending money on lowering tuition to keep their job and LSAT/GPA stats up in the face of a smaller applicant pool. The hope is that when things pick back up again the school will be able to make up for the losses by taking in more applicants because many lower-ranked school will have simply gone out of business and peers who survive but lower their admissions standards too much won’t look as attractive to employers and applicants.
One problem is that old faculty members are almost impossible to get rid of, so to save money on faculty salaries Minnesota is reducing its hiring of new faculty. This is going to be a problem for you because fresh, young faculty members are often better, more motivated teachers. This isn’t always the case, but it can be pretty disappointing to realize how long of a priority teaching students can be for some professors.
Basically, in my opinion, if it made sense for you to go to Minnesota before you knew about any of this, then it still probably makes sense. It might even be a better deal for you, if they’re reducing tuition.
The one thing that shouldn’t be news to you are Minnesota’s employment stats:
This is a scary picture for me. This is why Minnesota is struggling to attract students, and in turn is losing money.
Here’s what you do. If you’re not passionate about public interest law: add up the percentage of graduates at firms with 101 or more attorneys. Now add to this the percentage of federal clerks. That’s about 23% in 2015.
This is the proportion of the class at Minnesota that will be able to make the about $2,500 in monthly loan payments after three years of law school at Minnesota (assuming no discounts). Scary.
But if you’re going to Minnesota for free or with a grant from the Bank of Mom & Dad, then it could make a lot of sense to attend. It also makes sense if you’re a gambler. When’s the last time you made a $250,000 bet?
It’s not fair to single out Minnesota. Many law schools much worse off and offer absolutely terrible deals for their students. And if you see these numbers (or worse) and you still want to go to law school, that’s fine. You know your pain threshold and alternative opportunities better than anyone else. But you should at least make an informed decision.
Or you could do the smart thing and just study a bit longer for the LSAT and avoid having to take such a gamble.