Lowering law school tuition for higher applicant numbers

Enrollment drop due to 'job contraction and an overreaction to that contraction'

U.S. law school enrollment has dropped by 36 percent the past three years—and some schools are freezing or reducing tuition in response.

The drop is due to both “job contraction and an overreaction to that contraction,” says Judith Areen, executive director and CEO of The Association of American Law Schools. “The projected number of jobs available is higher than law school enrollment is reflecting.”

Institutions are working to boost numbers. Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island has reduced tuition from $41,400 to $33,792 for fall 2014. The reduction applies to currently enrolled students, and students entering this fall are promised that rate for four years, says Donald J. Farish, president of the university.

Results since the December 2013 announcement were immediate. “We saw an increase in the number of applications compared to last year, and already have more deposits than last year,” says Farish. He didn’t want to lay off law school faculty to make up for tuition losses. Funding from the undergrad budget will provide a subsidy if less than 375 students enroll.

The University of Iowa College of Law announced a one-time reduction for 2014-15. Tuition will drop from $47,252 to $39,500 for non-resident students and from $26,274 to $21,964 for residents. Applications, accepted through May 1 this year, experienced a 91 percent jump over last year, says Gail Agrawal, dean.

All tuition and other sources of revenue at the University of Iowa are pooled and then dispersed to the different departments and colleges. The law school will need more funds as its campus contribution drops. To reduce costs, Agrawal’s team has not been filling all vacant faculty and staff positions.

“The ultimate goal,” she says, “is to maintain quality and our historically strong job placement rates.”

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