Law Schools, Student Loans

Law School Offers Free Tuition To 50 Applicants

We know the new economics for middle-tier law schools. Applications are down, so to convince students with good test scores to come to your school, you have to offer them money. It’s the market, imperfect though it may be, at work.

So when a law school offers “full scholarships” to a number of students with strong academic credentials, don’t think that it’s doing you a favor. They’re trying to fill their seats, not trying to address the fundamental cost problem of law school. If a law school is offering “scholarships” to high-performing students, that means that the low-performing students who are paying full price are subsidizing the people in their class who are most likely to bust up the curve. Addressing the value proposition of law school involves lowering tuition for all students, not making law school free for the kids with potentially better options.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with a little price competition among law schools for those good students. If you can go to law school for free, what do you care if some of your classmates are being price-gouged?

And if you go to this law school, you might legitimately be getting an education more tailored to the real legal job market than at other schools, thus making your free education even more valuable…

Villanova University School of Law is enjoying some nice press today because of its new scholarship offers. From the Philadelphia Business Journal:

“Our strategic plan calls for a reduction of class size to provide more interaction with faculty,” Gotanda said. “The plan was to reduce the 2014 class slightly but we’ll be flexible.”

Villanova Law has the money to afford to 50 full scholarships, which effectively doubles the number of students receiving free tuition, Gotanda said. To qualify, applicants need an undergraduate GPA of 3.6 or higher and an LSAT score of 157 or higher. Gotanda said the program is based purely on academic quality and not financial need.

Gotanda said the school also will not raise annual tuition on any incoming class during their three years of study.

I think the promise to not raise tuition on the incoming students for three years is bigger news that the 50 scholarships. At the very least, incoming law students deserve a measure of cost certainty when trying to figure out if law school is worth the money. The fact that many schools continue to raise tuition on people who have already started the program is outrageous. It’s good to see Villanova join the ranks of law schools promising to keep tuition flat.

The other good thing that ‘Nova is doing involves their educational focus:

As for the curriculum changes, Gotanda said part of Villanova Law’s strategic plan also included providing students with more business skills. Starting with the current crop of first year students, the school introduced a required class dealing with financial literacy for lawyers. Industry experts teach a one-week, intense crash-course where the students learn about balance sheets, valuations and other concepts that are key to serving business clients. The students spent the week focusing solely on this class and receive one course credit as opposed to four for a full-semester course like contracts….

“We teach them that law is not just a profession but also a business,” Gotanda said. “It’s designed to allow them to decide if this is the right profession for them. It deals with the business structure — personnel, law firm economics, overhead, time sheets and revenue, budgeting, client pitches, and law practice management.”

Curriculum additions along these lines are desperately needed at every law school. The practice of law is a business. Law students need to graduate with at least a modicum of business skills to go along with their brilliant understanding of comparative constitutional history or whatever.

These are good ideas from Villanova. They’re putting some money in the game, they’re trying to teach students some real-world skills. These aren’t the kind of wholesale reforms that legal education needs, but there are some positive steps here that other law schools would do well to emulate.

Villanova Law to offer 50 full scholarships [Philadelphia Business Journal]

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