Law Schools, Money, Student Loans

A Trend in the Making: Falling Law School Tuition? Let’s Make It Happen, People!

Last week, in Morning Docket, we mentioned that one law school was thinking about lowering tuition. My colleague Staci requested less thinking and more doing.

As it turned out, the law school in question went ahead and reduced tuition, by significant amounts. How much are we talking about? And could this positive trend spread to other schools?

Maybe — especially if law students do their part and speak out….

Here’s a report on the news from Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal:

The Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday unanimously approved an 11 percent tuition cut for in-state residents at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and an 8 percent reduction for nonresidents.

The move would appear to be the first significant law school tuition reduction since nationwide application totals began to decline in 2011. It offers evidence that the list prices for a law school education, which have far outpaced inflation for more than a decade, are beginning to reflect supply and demand.

A number of law schools have frozen tuition or limited increases, and many have increased scholarship offerings. The University of Akron School of Law is doing away with its out-of-state tuition differential next year. But none has gone as far as actually cutting its list price as Arizona has done.

The dollar amounts are not insignificant. Here are what the numbers look like:

Annual tuition for Arizona residents will be $24,381, a cut of about $3,000 per year. Non-resident tuition will be $38,841, about $3,500 less per year.

“This lowers tuition for every one of our current students as well,” [interim dean Marc] Miller said. “It means our sticker price is a more accurate reflection of our true cost.”

What could be driving this move? An Associated Press article from yesterday points out that UA Law is facing declining enrollment and applications. But as the NLJ piece notes, UA is hardly unique in that respect: according to the Law School Admission Council, the number of law school applicants is down by roughly 17 percent nationwide.

I view this tuition cut the way I view the salutary trend of declining law school class sizes: even if the motivation might be self-interested in part, the ultimate outcome is good. The legal education market is starting to self-correct, now that more and better information about law school is getting out there.

Let’s hope that Arizona inspires imitators and that this isolated action turns into a trend. Students at other law schools, you can do your part. You can speak out against your school’s likely tuition increase, as some Duke law students recently did. And when your dean tells you during some town hall meeting that it’s simply impossible for a law school to freeze or reduce tuition, ask your dean, “How is Arizona able to do it?”

Perhaps the most important thing about the UA Law tuition cut is that it shows it is possible for a law school to reduce tuition. No law of physics prevents a law school from making itself more affordable. The law of gravity applies to many things; let’s add law school tuition to the list.

Arizona cuts law school tuition, marking a first [National Law Journal]
UA law school cutting tuition as enrollment drops [Associated Press]
Attention law school shoppers: It’s now cheaper to get a JD from the University of Arizona [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Law Students Plan Preemptive Strike Against Their School’s ‘Regular’ Tuition Increase

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