There’s another story today about the soft market for law school applications. According to the National Law Journal, law school applications are down 8 percent this year, and a shocking 37 percent since 2010.
We’ve discussed at length different theories for why this keeps happening.
But one law school is experiencing a boom in applications. It’s a new law school, one that probably shouldn’t exist in the first place. But it is doing one thing right that other law schools still resist: it’s dirt cheap….
The new University of North Texas Dallas College of Law expected to get 350 applicants for its inaugural class. Instead, 600 people applied. By way of comparison, Indiana Tech Law School hoped to get 100 students into its class, and only managed to fool 28 kids into matriculating.
The UNT application success led founding dean and retired U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson Jr. to proclaim as follows to the Dallas Morning News: “It tells you there’s a pent-up demand for law school here.” As reported, Furgeson’s statement is incomplete and misleading. But I can make a quick edit that will make his position less questionable:
It tells you there’s a pent-up demand for A CHEAP law school here.
UNT Dallas charges (hang onto your butts) $14,040 per year for in-state tuition. Per year, folks, not per semester. The aforementioned Indy Tech tries to jack people for $29,500 a year. UT Austin Law charges $33,162, in-state. Texas A&M Law charges $33,000 because it’s no longer called Texas Wesleyan. And private schools, forget about it. SMU Dedman School of Law clocks in at $48,796 per year!
For those playing along at home, three years of UNT Dallas will cost about the same as one year of SMU Dedman. You don’t have to be an LSAT games master to figure out which one is a better deal.
You also don’t have to be an economics major to understand why UNT Dallas is winning the applications game while other law schools continue to fail. Some people still want to go to law school, they just don’t want to risk financial ruin to do it.
But let’s not start licking each other’s popsicles just yet. UNT Law is charging less than what I just paid for a used car, but it might be a lemon. We’re talking about a new law school with no ABA accreditation and no track record of employment outcomes. We’re talking about a school that will likely be ranked near the bottom nationally for years and years. We’re talking about a school with no law alumni network to speak of that is hiring cheap professors to control costs. We have no idea what your UNT Law diploma, powered by Kinko’s, will get you in a job market we’re not even sure exists. Don’t forget, we already have UT, A&M, Texas Tech, Baylor, and yes those SMU kids, feeding into the Dallas legal employment market. If your job after law school involves standing outside the Chick-Fil-A looking for people who need a competent hate-crimes defense, you might be sorry you went to law school at all.
Still, at $14,040/year, UNT seems to be, at worst, a survivable mistake. Going to UNT might ruin your twenties, but it probably won’t ruin your life.
When will other law schools accept this basic lesson? The tuition is too damn high! If law schools want more people to buy their product, they must reduce the price and offer good value. It’s that simple.
Instead of charging like Yale but being not as good, why can’t more law schools charge like UNT but try to be better?