The recent NYT story on law schools’ use of grade-contingent, merit-based scholarships to recruit 1Ls has prompted substantial discussion in the blawgosphere (including here and here). At some schools, a substantial proportion (if not a majority) of the incoming 1L class may receive merit scholarships that are contingent upon the maintenance of an above-average GPA. Given mandatory law school curves, this virtually ensures that a significant number of students will lose their scholarships after the first year. Is this sort of policy fair? Are incoming students aware of the conditions placed on their scholarships? Law School Transparency has also called for greater disclosure of law school scholarship policies, a proposal endorsed by U.S. News Robert Morse.
Is change afoot? Will law schools become more transparent, or alter their scholarship policies? CWRU School of Law’s incoming dean, Lawrence Mitchell, announced last week that he will suspend the law school’s policy requiring scholarship recipients to maintain GPAs above those required to remain in good academic standing for currently enrolled and incoming students. He explained the change this way:
Our policy was grounded in the sensible notion that students who are granted merit-based financial aid should be expected to continue to perform at the same level that led us to grant that aid. However, with mandatory curves, a significant number of students who do perform acceptably well find that they drop below the line for a variety of reasons unrelated to effort. Especially in times of economic uncertainty and hardship in the legal market, I felt it was both inhumane and unproductive to continue a policy that, instead of improving student performance, placed additional pressure and created undue anxiety among students that could hinder their performance.