Monday, September 2, 2013

Two-Thirds a Happy Labor Day

I first want to wish all my readers a happy Labor Day or, as most of my readers view it, an ordinary, indistinguishable Monday spent surfing the interwebs on mom's crumb-littered couch.

I've noticed that over the last week or so, legal education talk has been dominated by President Obama sticking his neck into the law school reform issue. Apparently, he threw out the idea of law school being only two years, and people eat this superficial shit up.

I love it. The "2 year" solution - whether it's a true 2-year plan or a 2-year plan with an externship tacked in - is a big ol' red herring non-reform. It sounds nice. "Hey, wow, same degree for 2/3 the price? I'll take it!" We learned a long time ago that the best sell is one's individual finances. YOU TOO CAN MAKE $160K AND SLEEP IN BROOKS BROTHERS SUITS is now as passe as heroin. Today, law school propaganda is turning, slowly, towards, WE'RE MAKING IT CHEAPER FOR YOU. When you can't sell quality, sell cost.

There's just one problem. 

{Record-player screech}

A two-year JD isn't any more likely to find a remunerative job than a three-year JD.

But, hey, we've now got Barry O on the case. Law schools, consider yourselves reformed. Problem solved, nothing to see here, more kids will enroll because it's a quicker program with less perceived risk so let's raise the price of year two on the little bastards, no need to discuss reforming GradPlus loans or matching educational output with market reality. Nope. Move along now.

Oh, what the hell, why not stay and do some math with me?

Ten years ago, tuition at Harvard was around 34k. Now it's crested 50k. The total cost therefore went from 102k to 150k. So...if they went to a straight two year program with a degree and no further tuition your total cost savings would be... around 2k. For Seton Hall, full tuition for 3 years a decade ago cost around 90k. Two years at present tuition rates is around...90k. And if you look at other schools, they'd still be bringing in more in raw tuition than they were 10 years ago. Because the people who like this reform conveniently ignore how rapidly tuition rates have risen at American's Finest Law Schools(c), which was necessitated by the drastic changes in legal education from 2004 to 2014. Windows 7 was cataclysmic, people, and buying the faculty 4G iPhones was a nightmare. 

If you'll recall that for law schools, the third year is the most expensive, you might understand why THIS has emerged as an acceptable reform possibility. If the ABA says "yes," they'll be a mad rush to dump expensive clinical programs at lower-ranked schools and "economize" the experience. I'll tell you exactly what'll happen. Schools will slash the course catalog in half, kill excess programs, and charge the same tuition rate and...uh...continue making money. And remember: this is their compromise position.

They'll also be a rush to sell law degrees as equally-fast alternatives to MBAs and other short-term degrees. Less committment means less risk, which means more room in the ol' law school queue for all those people who have been passing the last few years. 

Of course, the propaganda ministry has been decrying this and saying it's terrible for law schools. But given all the alternatives, it's an attractive reform as we circle the wagons, which is why it's so awesome the POTUS is agenda setting for us and keeping the intolerable reforms in Lalaland. Limit federal loans? What're you smokin', a-hole?

Just give up now, scmabloggers. No one's touching the loan program and no one's going to make an effort to truly rein in tuition rate escalation.

So raise a beer to the law school complex, friends. It will always win.

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