“It’s a Buyer’s Market at Law School”

In the National Law Journal, Karen Sloan reports on how the drop in law school applications this year has law schools scrambling to fill slots — and offering unusually generous scholarships necessary to try to maintain U.S. News numbers. It begins:

It’s not unheard of for a law school facing a bloated incoming class to offer scholarship money to students on condition that they defer for a year. But Thomas Rozinski, a prelaw adviser at Touro College, saw something completely different this year when a student with a middling score on the Law School Admission Test sought to defer her enrollment at a second-tier law school for personal reasons.

“They offered her $25,000 a year if she would come this year. That’s $75,000,” said Rozinski, an assistant professor in Touro’s political science department. “She was at the bottom of their range” for LSAT scores and undergraduate grade-point averages. “Quite frankly, I was surprised she got in at all.”

It’s anything but business as usual during this year’s law school admissions cycle. That seemed obvious to the nearly 500 prelaw advisers and law school admissions officers who gathered in Washington in mid-June for a five-day conference of the Pre-Law Advisors National Council.

Part of this is a short-term reaction as schools adjust to the lower number of applications. Some or many schools will cut their class sizes, and some schools may eventually close. But in the short run no one knows how the sorting will go, and schools want to adjust while optimizing their U.S. News numbers in the short term, in the hope that they’ll get a short-term bump relative to their competitors that will have a long-term payoff. From the end of the article:

Applicants should take advantage of the relaxed admissions standards and unusually deep pot of scholarship money while they can — there simply isn’t enough money to keep doling out scholarships at this pace every year, said Sophia Sim, associate dean for admissions and financial aid at George Washington University Law School.

Monica Ingram, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid at the University of Texas School of Law, agreed. “It’s not going to take law schools long to right things,” Ingram said, noting that Texas’ incoming class will be smaller than usual. “This year is an anomaly. It may be off next year as well, but things will correct themselves.”