Law School Deans, Law Schools, Student Loans

Is This A Good Tuition Deal? Only If You Don’t Read The Fine Print.


Here’s a fun one: when is a tuition freeze not really a freeze? When can you use a tuition cut to mask a tuition hike?

These are the kind of fun things you can do when you are running an American law school now that your prospective law students have not yet learned how to read the fine print.

There’s a school getting some press today for dropping its out-of-state tuition down to the level of its in-state tuition. What’s getting less press is that part of the plan is to raise in-state tuition by six percent….

As we mentioned in Morning Docket, the University of Akron School of Law is responding to the law school application crisis by cutting out-of-state tuition. Going forward, Ohio residents and non-Ohio residents will pay virtually the same rate (non-Ohioans will pay a $50 surcharge for I don’t know, shipping and handling maybe). In addition, Akron will freeze tuition for the incoming class (a move also taken by the University of Miami School of Law), meaning that they’ll be charged the same rate for all three years.

Good stuff, right? The National Law Journal has this really nice quote from Akron Law interim dean Elizabeth Reilly:

“Many law schools have shrunk their programs, or lowered their admission standards, or cut their staffs,” Reilly said. “We’ve chosen to focus on what we believe will help our students succeed. They still need a great education, and reasonable priced, so they don’t suffer under the weight of tremendous debt.” …

Akron’s applicant pool fell by 12 percent last year and this year is experiencing an application decline in line with the national 20 percent drop, Reilly said. Data from the admission council indicate that schools in the Great Lakes and Midwest regions have been hit hardest by declining applications.

Aww… you can check out the NLJ for more quotes from Reilly. She sounds like a law dean who gets it and understands that helping students requires cost-cutting moves from law schools.

So why is Akron raising tuition?

The plan at Akron is to freeze tuition for the incoming class after jacking up the price of in-state tuition by six percent, according to the Akron Beacon Journal.

And now that I’m thinking about it, how many “out-of-state” students does Akron have really? The school is ranked #119 by U.S. News. It has a 50% employment score. Are kids from Pennsylvania really clambering over state lines to get to Akron Law? Dean Reilly touts Ohio’s low cost of living as another draw to Akron… but is Ohio really that much cheaper than Michigan or Indiana?

How many kids in, say, Santa Clara are sitting there thinking, “You know, now that Akron has eliminated out-of-state tuition, this is my chance to get into a law school in the bottom 100 on the cheap.”

Am I crazy here or is this whole thing just a thinly veiled six percent tuition hike on the incoming class at Akron?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d choose Akron at $21,375, with a dean who his sensitive to cost concerns over, just off the top of my head, the $44,500 Dean Lawrence Mitchell is proud to charge you for the opportunity to go to Case Western Reserve School of Law.

I think we should call six percent tuition hikes just that, tuition hikes. Though I get that promising to price gouge students only before they get to campus is what passes as good news these days.

To lure students, public law school drops out-of-state tuition [National Law Journal]
UA law school plans to raise tuition by 6 percent [Akron Beacon Journal]

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