Here Are the Tools to Decrease Law School Debt

Law used to be a growth industry that beckoned thousands of students with its siren song. Being a lawyer meant job security, good pay, and the opportunity to make a difference. As a result, the benefits clearly outweighed investment in hard work and money to get the degree.

Today, the siren song has faded to a whisper, and the scale of benefits—for the student and for society—is tilted. Law schools are finding it increasingly difficult to secure applicants (even when they provide additional enticements), as a result of the following law career changes:

  • Job security. Supply and demand for lawyers has been significantly unbalanced since the recession. On average there are twice as many graduates as there are job openings.
  • Pay. Rates and wages have been declining as large law firms downsize and the supply of attorneys continues to grow.
  • Debt. The reality of putting oneself in up to six figures of debt without a guaranteed pay-off is too much for many students.

piggy-bank-mortarboardLowering Debt to Bring Back Law School Enthusiasm

Average tuition costs at American law schools have skyrocketed over the past four decades. As a result, many graduates are beginning their careers dragged down by ridiculously high student loan debt. On average, 85% of law school graduates have nearly $100,000 worth of school loans hanging over their heads as a result of having to pay for inflated loan tuition and accreditation expenses.

In order to bring back enthusiasm for pursuing a law degree, tuition costs need to be addressed. The best way to do this is by:

  • Demanding law school accountability. Law schools increase tuition as a result of students taking advantage of federal loan programs. Since students are paying tuition with loans, schools inflate costs in order to get more federal money. This needs to stop. The federal loan system needs to demand greater accountability from law schools by reducing (or flat-out refusing to issue) loans to schools where a high proportion of recent graduates are in financial trouble due to inflated tuition costs.
  • Lowering loans to lower cost. Another option to reduce tuition inflation is to cap the total amount of federal money that any individual law school can receive. Currently, many law schools receive millions of dollars every year in loan money for students directly from the government. However, placing a cap on the amount of federal loan money that each school receives would force law schools to control tuition in order to sustain enrollment.
  • Stripping away accreditation requirements. The American Bar Association’s accreditation requirements for law schools are extremely expensive. As a result, those expenses are pushed onto the students by way of inflated tuition costs. However, if these standards were no longer required, than law schools can reevaluate where expenses are needed. Instead of paying professors for teaching and researching, schools could focus on training competent lawyers at a reasonable cost, while others remained committed to academic research.

By addressing these tuition issues, law schools could lower tuition and student debt, thus increasing desire to enroll. Instead of a handful of applicants paying exorbitant tuition costs for courses they don’t need and amenities they don’t want, students will be able to drawn to the type of legal education they desire because they will be able to afford it.

For more discussion on legal education and career issues, feel free to browse our blogs.

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