Ever since President Obama dropped his thought bubble that law school should be only two years, schools and individuals have been throwing out responses. ABA President James Silkenat went so far as to suggest that the president didn’t mean what he said. People are ridiculous.

Some law school deans have been quick to point out that their schools already offer two-year programs. What they don’t add is that those two-year programs still charge people the same price as for three-year programs. The ABA’s inflexible rules mandate three years’ worth of credit hours, so current two-year programs just jam all those credits into two years and charge people for three.

But one school seems to be trying to do this the right way. And you might be surprised to learn which school it is….

Crain’s New York Business has a story about the new two-year program at New York Law School. NYLS is offering a two-year program that will charge (wait for it) two years’ worth of tuition to complete:

[New York Law School Dean Anthony Crowell] said the school’s program, which is slated to start in January 2015, would condense three years of school into two but not eliminate any course work. Accreditation requirements make it impossible at this time to completely overhaul the curriculum and cut some courses…

However, Mr. Crowell said the two-year degree would be cheaper because all students accepted into the program would receive a $50,000 scholarship so they’d only pay two-thirds the cost of the education. A year at New York Law costs about $50,000.

“The cost of the law degree is prohibitive to many students,” Mr. Crowell said.

My God… that sounds like reasonable action taken by a law school to reduce costs.

Lots of schools say that they are offering lots of scholarships that reduce the effective cost for law school for some of their students. But no law school is coming out and saying they are going to offer scholarships to “all” students in this program or that. Here NYLS is straight-out saying that if you get into the two-year program, you will not have to pay full price.

Granted, one might imagine that the kids who get into the two-year program are the high achievers among the NYLS applicant pool. Just as some other school might offer a significant scholarship to its high achievers — a scholarship that is fundamentally subsidized by the low achievers paying full price — one might argue that the three-year students at NYLS will just be subsidizing the two-year students at NYLS.

I’ll also note that by setting it up as a $50K scholarship, instead of just cutting the price of the two-year program, NYLS leaves itself an easy option to jack up the price on its two-year students the moment the market will allow it. At the very least, setting it up as a “scholarship” makes those who get into the program feel “special,” like they’re getting a “deal,” which increases the chances that they’ll matriculate. If you just told them they were paying “full price” for two years of law school, they might not feel like God’s gift to law school.

But, in the context of the market, I think these arguments are nitpicking. Juxtapose NYLS’s program with other “two-year” options out there:

[T]he two-year program at Brooklyn law isn’t cheaper than the three-year degree because students pay per credit, currently at $1,795. Students need 85 credits to graduate making the cost of the degree $152,575.

So two years at NYLS costs about $100,000, while two years at Brooklyn costs about $150,000. Look, I enjoy poking a little fun at NYLS as much as the next insanely privileged online commentator guy, but $50,000 in cost savings is no joke.

NY Law School latest to offer 2-year program [Crain's New York Business]

Earlier: Dear Obama, Instead Of Talking About Law Schools, You Could Actually Do Something
Debating The Utility Of The Third Year Of Law School


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