An actual top-50 law school has cut its tuition. They’re not giving a tuition “reimbursement” or “credit” or “scholarship.” They’re not making it a one-time deal available to impulse shoppers. Instead, they’re reducing tuition, across the board, for both in-state and out-of-state students, across all class years. They’re cutting tuition. Let us give them thanks and praise.

It’s still expensive, probably prohibitively so. But a top-tier school putting its tuition in reverse is big, bright news. I award this school all the corn in my silo, they’ve earned it….

The University of Iowa College of Law announced yesterday that it is cutting tuition by 16.4%. And that’s not hot air. Look at how simply Iowa explains it:

The Iowa Board of Regents today (Wednesday, Dec. 4) approved a tuition reduction of 16.4 percent for students in the University of Iowa College of Law’s J.D. program. The new rates, which take effect in fall 2014, will apply to new and continuing resident students and to entering nonresident students.

That means a $7,750 a year reduction for nonresident students to $39,500, and a cut of $4,309 for resident students, to $21,965.

Iowa isn’t the only law school cutting tuition. I learned recently that the Ohio Northern University – Claude W. Pettit College of Law has cut tuition by 25% for the 2014 academic year. If there are other schools that are off my radar who have also made significant real tuition reductions, please let me know.

But as far as I’m aware, Iowa Law is the highest-ranked law school to make a tuition cut that actually shaves dollars off of the top line for all classes. Iowa is ranked #26 in the U.S. News rankings. They’re ranked #37 in the Above the Law rankings — and this reduction in cost might well help them move up in our rankings next year, since lower cost means a higher ranking in our system.

Don’t get me wrong, paying $39,500 to cross state lines to go to Iowa is probably still a terrible decision. I’m not sure the Waterloo market for legal services can support enough lawyers who graduate with that kind of debt. But instead of focusing on the overall prices, the direction of the movement is what is important here:

[Law Dean Gail Agrawal] says the ultimate aim is to maximize graduates’ ability to follow their hearts and take jobs they love, and keeping student debt to a manageable level is a critical part of that effort.

“The University of Iowa College of Law has long been recognized as providing high quality for an affordable price. We want to take a leading role in the evolving face of legal education and ensure our place as a best value proposition among the top public law schools,” says Agrawal.

Well, one man’s “affordable” is another man’s fried stick of butter. But this is how it starts. Iowa comes down, then Indiana comes down, then Ohio State begrudgingly comes down, and then Michigan says, “SCREW ALL OF YOU, we’re T14, bitches.”

Great job Iowa (and Ohio Northern), this could be the start of something special.

University of Iowa College of Law tuition lowered 16 percent [Iowa Now]

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