Friday, June 1, 2012
Two interesting proposals here; adopting one or both would completely change the landscape of American legal education. In brief:
To restore some economic rationality, the federal loan system needs to demand greater accountability from law schools: those with a high proportion of recent graduates in financial trouble should lose their eligibility to receive money from federal loans... The money itself also needs to be reined in. One option is to cap the total amount that each law student can borrow from the government (at, say, a maximum of $125,000). Law schools would then be forced to set tuition with this limit in mind....
[A]nother option is to cap the total amount of federal money that any individual law school can receive. A number of law schools now get about $50 million annually in loan money for students directly from the government. Placing an across-the-board cap on total federal loan money (of, say, $40 million) would force law schools to control tuition as well as enrollment....
Then there’s the problem of the American Bar Association-imposed accreditation standards....[B]y imposing a “one size fits all” template, these standards ensure that there is little differentiation among law schools — no lower-cost options and no range of choices comparable to what exists at the undergraduate level among community colleges, teaching colleges and research universities.
One solution to this problem is to strip away the accreditation requirements that mandate expenditures to support faculty scholarship — for example, deleting the requirement that the bulk of professors be in tenure-track positions, removing limits on teaching loads, not requiring paid research leaves for professors, not requiring substantial library collections and so forth. This would allow some law schools to focus on training competent lawyers at a reasonable cost while others remained committed to academic research. Law students would then be able to choose the type of legal education they desired and could afford.
What do readers think? Signed comments only: full name and valid e-mail address.