Law Schools, Money

While Other Law Schools Are Shrinking in Size, This One Hopes to Offer Bigger Classes (Not to Mention Bigger Tuition Bills)

We’ve been writing about shrinking law school class sizes for quite some time now. At first, it seemed like a trend. But then more and more schools started doing it, some voluntarily and some not-so voluntarily (although those schools will likely claim that it was their idea all along).

In this time of struggle in the legal job market, with constant chatter about the unconscionability of student loan debt, you’d think that almost all law schools would be on board with the idea that smaller class sizes will ensure the likelihood of employment for their graduates. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It appears that a school other than Cooley Law (which just opened its fifth campus) has hopped aboard the MOAR LAW STUDENTS train.

Which one is it? Let’s find out….

We mentioned this briefly in Morning Docket on Friday, but considering that tuition expenses may be at stake, we thought that it deserved the full treatment. It seems that Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is looking to move from Tempe to Phoenix in or about 2014. How much will this venture cost?

About $129 million. No big deal, right? Well, actually, it is a big deal when you expect law students to foot the bill. It’s a very big freakin’ deal. Here’s an excerpt from the Arizona Republic’s article on the subject:

ASU officials say that for the plan to be financially feasible they would have to significantly increase law-school enrollment, raise tuition, enhance quality and launch a series of master’s-degree programs. …

As ASU contemplates raising law-school enrollment, many schools are moving in the opposite direction, shrinking incoming classes as the economy has made it difficult for law-school graduates to get jobs and repay student loans.

Granted, Arizona State is seeking funding from the state regents, but this sounds like a perfect plan for the future, doesn’t it? Why should the school give a damn about the financial well-being of current and future law students when it can replace its 165,000 square foot building with a 294,000 square foot building that will look even more attractive for its U.S. News rankings? Here’s a description of the new campus:

In case you missed it, the school is planning to increase its degree production by 50 percent. Fifty percent! ASU Law’s current enrollment is 650-700, and the university administration wants to send another 300 plus students out into the market. Perhaps they’ll be employed at the law school’s yet-to-open “teaching law firm”?

Not to worry, because Dean Douglas Sylvester claims that the school has “no current plans to grow our J.D. class beyond its historical size and beyond the capacity of the college to continue to find productive employment for all of our graduates.” This doesn’t compute with the information being put out by the university, but then again, some deans have no interest in serving as “butt boys” to the powers that be.

The members of the administration really ought to get together and come up with some better lines to feed to the media so it looks like they all agree that gouging students is in their best interests.

(Click through to the next page to see ASU Law’s full budget proposal for regent’s funding.)

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