For prospective law students, the promise of merit-based scholarship money amid a broken legal market seems like an incredible deal. So what if there aren’t any jobs? You’re going to go to law school at a significantly discounted rate, or maybe even for free, so you won’t be at any real loss.

Or will you?

What law schools don’t like to tell you with regard to these frequently conditional scholarships is just how difficult it can be to keep them. When you’re banking the terms of your financial future on a law school grading curve, things can get a little tricky. Some might even describe the situation as a big racket. Thankfully, the ABA has started keeping tabs on these programs, and now there’s a wealth of information available on retention rates for scholarships of this kind.

So out of the 140 schools offering conditional scholarships, which ones are most likely to take back your law school funny money? Let’s find out…

Professor Jerry Organ of the University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota), the same man who brought us the cheerful news that those carrying significant law school debt would likely never be able to own homes, analyzed the statistics on conditional scholarship grants for the 2011-2012 academic year, and discovered that about 69 percent of students were able to retain their school funding.

Professor Organ posted at table at the Legal Whiteboard, breaking down those retention rates. Note that at 23 schools, less than 50 percent of students were able to retain their conditional scholarships.

But which law schools had the worst scholarship retention rates of all? Here’s the data for the ten worst offenders in descending order (based on data from students entering law school in 2011):

Santa Clara (40 percent of students retained conditional scholarships)

Florida A&M (40 percent)

Barry (39 percent)

Rutgers-Camden (32 percent)

George Mason (32 percent)

Texas Wesleyan (28 percent)

St. Thomas in Florida (24 percent)

Howard (24 percent)

St. Mary’s (21 percent)

Akron (21 percent)

The ABA Journal has a list of the 25 law schools with the worst scholarship retention rates.

What about the law schools that had a gentler touch when it came to conditional scholarship retention rates? All of the students at these schools were able to keep their funding: Arizona, Emory, Colorado, Connecticut, Liberty, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stetson, UCLA, Vermont, and South Dakota.

Now that information like this is readily available online, perhaps fewer people will be able to claim that they were lured to attend law school with false promises of scholarship money. Sure, you may be a special little snowflake who thinks you’ll be able to overcome the odds and beat the curve, but with hard data staring you in the face, it’ll be just a little bit harder to keep going with such faulty logic.

But then again, if you do, it may be the reason why you lost your scholarship in the first place.

Conditional Scholarships and Scholarship Retention for 2011-12 [Legal Whiteboard]
Better Understanding the Scope of Conditional Scholarship Programs Among American Law Schools [SSRN]
Which law schools were most likely to yank merit-based scholarships? [ABA Journal]

Earlier: If You Want To Own A Home, Don’t Borrow Money To Go To Law School
Are Law School ‘Merit Scholarships’ A Big Racket?


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