NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs

August 26, 2015

Law school graduates are having a difficult time finding long-term employment in their field. Nevertheless, law schools have been able to keep raising tuition in spite of producing many more graduates than the market can absorb, writes Steven J. Harper for the New York Times.

The main reason lies in the availability of federal loans regardless of the prospect of employment. Law school students now accumulate debt ranging from $88,000 for public schools to $127,000 for private ones.

Law schools obtain a great percentage of their revenues from tuition so they have an incentive to maintain large student bodies but they have no responsibility for the debt the students have incurred even when the possibilities of finding a job are grim.

These conditions have led to schools operating without any accountability and students and taxpayers bearing the price. A task force created by the American Bar Association suggested the following:

  • Require schools to share in the responsibility for repaying the loans.
  • Capping law student loans.
  • Even eliminating the federal student loan program in its current form.

The task force, however, claimed that the market would take care of this situation and although enrollment decreased from 2010 to 2014, it didn't declined at a pace required to reach equilibrium. Instead, the task force recommended other less effective measures (such as offering better debt counseling) that will not solve this crisis.

Unless student loans bear a realistic relationship to employment outcomes, law schools will take advantage of their lack of accountability and the legal education market will continue generating a supply and demand imbalance.

Source: Steven J. Harper, "Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs," New York Times, August 25, 2015.

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