I always get a little excited when a respectable news outlet reports on the law school scam. Even though it’s happening with increasing frequency in recent months, it’s still good to see articles like this piece from Slate. Judging by the continuing log-pile of prospective students taking the LSAT and clamoring to get into law schools, all of the warnings and media attention don't seem to be soaking in.
I talk about my own school a lot, but the facepalm-worthy news continues to roll out of that putrid money pit. Earlier this week, 1Ls were given the happy news that their tuition will be rising 13.5% next year. That seems like a relative bargain compared to the 15% increase that was announced a year ago. This is when tuition, fees, and COL at this fine public institution of legal learning are already $45,244, IN STATE.
As a four-way-tied-for-top-22 law school, Minnesota sadly is able to delude a lot of out-of-state students into thinking they’re paying for a “top 20 law school,” and I can only imagine how horrendously confiscatory their total COA will be. Tuition at the school had already doubled since 2005; factoring in this latest increase, it will have doubled and then some. So much for an affordable, public, land-grant university.
Oh, I almost forgot. Faculty will be asked to take a painful 1% pay cut to help the school in its time of financial woe. This is downright tragic, and I feel their pain. You can take a look at UMN faculty salaries here and calculate for yourself just how much belt-tightening these poor academics will have to endure. This data is by now three years old, so they in all likelihood are making even more today...but let's just say that even for the worst-paid professor at the school, they're losing out on about 1200 bucks. Even in-state students will be out around $3900, and more for out-of-state students. If it's not painfully clear, students are little more than warm bodies, heated by an avalanche of federal student loan dollars, that the school is happy to milk like a cow. Eventually, the milk will go dry (or turn sour, like yours truly), but there is already a new crop of tender young calves lining up at the doors ready to be exploited and drained of their life's blood.
Clueless 1Ls took the news surprisingly well, and even praised the administration for being so "upfront" and "honest" with them about the problems facing the law school. Oh, 1L...sucking up to the administration will get you nowhere. Will you still be thanking them and asking for more after they administer a financial beat-down to you and leave you unemployed?
I’m not surprised at the hopelessly out-to-lunch perspective of these new students. The Class of 2013 had plenty of time to figure out all was not well in law school land before they mailed in their tuition deposits. Sure, law schools have gone right on misleading them, but there has at least been some rumbling of discontent from the massacred graduate classes who came before them. My theory is that this year, and every subsequent year, of law school classes will be staffed by more and more delusional space cadets. No reasonably-well-informed person can go to law school today without getting at least one pleading, desperate warning to reconsider. The smartest, most self-aware prospective students will look into it and reassess their decision to go to law school. Only the most irrationally self-confident swallowers of law school lies will look at the economy, employment prospects, and warnings, and decide that going $150,000 into the red is worth it.
Thus, on the one hand I cheer this Slate article and every other like it. On the other hand, I fear it is creating a generation of even more hard-headed law students, those who resist all of the warning signs and won’t let the full folly of their decision to go to law school hit them until they land on their unemployed ass shortly after graduation. 81% of prospective students are already displaying this kind of tunnel-vision.
It was probably unreasonable to expect the thin, low-karat-gold-plated veneer that remained on the legal profession to wash away too quickly. TV, movies, and delusional baby boomer conceptions of the legal profession have been projected onto young people for far too long. Law schools weren't going to let a few tens of thousands of pesky unemployed scam victims ruin the lie for everyone. With a 20% increase in those taking the LSAT, schools should have no trouble filling their seats, even with these exorbitant tuition increases.