Crushing Debt Obligations.jpgThere was an article in the New York Times this weekend that jumped off the page and kind of smacked me in the mouth. The headline reads: “The New Poor — In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt”
Oh, the New York Times is finally starting to notice law schools that are profiteering during the recession? Not quite:

One fast-growing American industry has become a conspicuous beneficiary of the recession: for-profit colleges and trade schools.
At institutions that train students for careers in areas like health care, computers and food service, enrollments are soaring as people anxious about weak job prospects borrow aggressively to pay tuition that can exceed $30,000 a year.

That sounds like exactly the kind of scam many law schools are running.
But shockingly, a professor at Seattle University School of Law actually mocks these trade school programs. It’s a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black …


Based on the Above the Law inbox, every recent law graduate with a Weekender subscription found this quote amazingly hypocritical:

“If these programs keep growing, you’re going to wind up with more and more students who are graduating and can’t find meaningful employment,” said Rafael I. Pardo, a professor at Seattle University School of Law and an expert on educational finance. “They can’t generate income needed to pay back their loans, and they’re going to end up in financial distress.”

How can you fix your mouth to criticize “trade schools” for setting up their students for financial ruin when you teach at Seattle School of Law? Seattle is ranked 77th by U.S. News, but the school charges $35K – plus for tuition. The cost per year exceeds $50,000 when you include books, board and other living expenses. But the school only sports a 67.9% “employed upon graduation” statistic.
So I wonder why Professor Pardo exempts Seattle from the list of schools who graduate more and more students who “can’t find meaningful employment.”
In fact, I wonder if any law professor should be looking down his or her nose at trade schools. One tipster puts it this way:

Honestly I don’t see a difference between these for profit trade schools and law schools other than that the extra money goes into the hands of tenured professors rather than shareholders.

Maybe legal education would be better off if professors saw themselves more like trainers in a professional school than deep thinking academics?
In any event, law school professors live in the most fragile of glass houses. They should probably refrain from throwing stones at trade schools.
In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt [New York Times]
Earlier: Open Thread: 2010 U.S. News Law School Rankings (77 – 100)


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