Law Schools, Money, Student Loans

Tuition at Stanford Law Goes Up Dramatically Because….

If Kanye West were here, he’d say: “The Stanford Board of Trustees doesn’t care about law students.”

Tuition is going up across the Stanford University system. That’s not surprising. We’ve said many times that tuition is “recession proof”; it just keeps going up, regardless of the job market for degree holders.

But Stanford is almost going out of its way to hurt its law students. While the rest of the university will endure a 3.5% tuition hike for the 2011-2012 academic year, Stanford Law School will receive a special 5.75% tuition hike. The law school currently charges $44,880 in tuition alone. Once you include books and other living expenses, the suggested budget for a Stanford Law student is $71,535 per year.

According to the school, that’s a bargain. The school should be charging way more. Why? “Because they can,” said one Stanford Law student we heard from.

When considering how much a Stanford J.D. should cost, the school admits that it’s not looking at the market value of a law degree — it’s simply looking at how much other schools charge for their degree programs, and making tuition decisions accordingly.

Yes, this is more evidence that the price of a law degree has become completely disassociated from the value of a law degree. But it’s also evidence that when the chips are down, Maryland Law cares a lot more about the future success of its students than Stanford…

Back in December, we told you about Maryland’s struggle to keep law school tuition down during a time of legal recession, despite the fact that other state schools were trying to squeeze profits out of their law schools by any means necessary. The law school won. Maryland Law will be the only professional school in the UM system that will not be looking at a tuition increase next year. We’re still suffering from a legal recession, and the Maryland Law administration did what it had to in order to keep tuition down.

Now contrast that with the statements coming out of Stanford. From the Stanford Daily:

The Law School will implement a more dramatic increase in tuition, room and board. [Board President Leslie Hume] explained that the school was “under-pricing” itself relative to its competitors.

“There was a feeling that we were delivering a quality product equal to or better than our competitors, and yet our tuition costs less,” she said.

Stanford University: The price of paradise just went up.

Even if you accept that Stanford is a quality product compared to its peers, is that really the entire justification for a tuition increase? In this legal market? Part of the reason Stanford’s California competitors have such outlandish tuition is that many of them are public schools, and the state of California has been cutting off funding and squeezing them dry. That shouldn’t be as much of an issue for the (very well-endowed) Stanford.

On the other hand, Stanford Law has other legitimate competitors, like Yale and Harvard. And while graduates of those schools are not immune to the ravages of the legal recession, it’s pretty clear that they’re not feeling it as badly as most others. Is Stanford’s argument really that they are simply one of the three or five schools left in the country where you can be reasonably assured at having an offer for a high paying legal job upon graduation, and so they can charge what they want? If it is, well, that wouldn’t be the most ridiculous argument I’ve heard today.

So why is Stanford raising tuition at its law school at a higher rate than anywhere else in the university? Maybe our tipster was right: because they can. Stanford is one of the few law schools that can put in a claim as “best in America.” Stanford can still promise high-paying jobs and prestigious clerkships to just about every graduate who wants one. And other schools that can’t say those things are charging more money. So Stanford can charge more, because the business of legal education is business.

Still, it’s gotta sting though. Stanford Business students? You can go to the Board of Trustees. Stanford Medical students? You can go to the Board of Trustees. Stanford Law students? F**k you, pay me.

Trustees approve 3.5-percent tuition increase [Stanford Daily]

Earlier: Can Stanford Overtake Harvard and Yale and Become the #1 Law School?
Can Stanford Become the #1 Law School? Outlook Not So Good.
Kudos to Maryland Law for Protecting Its Students from Tuition Increases

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