Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New GAO Report on Legal Education

The GAO has released a new report on the cost of legal education, according to a news brief in Inside Higher Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education also covers the new report in an article published yesterday. Some individuals and groups, notably ALDA, have blamed the ABA accreditation process for piling on "unnecessary requirements that discourage innovative practice (and stifle competition from new schools) and ... drive up costs for students." The GAO concluded that aacreditation requirements are not causing tuition increases; rather, "the move to a more hands-on, resource-intensive aproach to legal education and competition among schools for higher rankings appear to be the main factors driving the cost of law school." Tuition has increased by 7.2 percent over the last twelve years at public law schools, but only by 5.3 percent at public medical schools. What has contributed to rising tuition costs at law schools? It is cheaper to staff large (100+ students) classes than it is to staff clinics and other programs that require a lot of interaction between professor and student; more faculty are required, and faculty salaries represent the lion's share of expenses at most law school. Tuition at public law schools has increased in response to declining levels of state funding. Academic support programs, which are of fairly recent vintage, have increased costs. And how much money has been spent to move law schools higher in the U.S. News and World Report rankings?

The GAO also concluded that the ABA accreditation standards have not affected minority enrollment in law school. Minority enrollments have actually increased, although some African American and Hispanic students may have been "negatively affected" by "lower average ... LSAT scores and undergraduate ... GPA ..."

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

This is a wonderful post, Marie! I am so glad to have read it here, first!