The Law School Tuition Kerfuffle: What Causes Tuition to Rise?

By: Steve Grumm

Much ink has been spilled in the past year about the quickly rising cost of legal education, and the return on investment that law grads receive from that education.  A latest installment in the ongoing conversation comes from the American Lawyer, in a piece entitled “ABA Regulations Don’t Cause Tuition Increases, Law Schools Do.”

In the piece, author Matt Leichter deconstructs what he perceives to be the core arguments arising from the most recent of New York Times reporter David Segal’s articles on the value of legal education.  Leichter begins:

In his latest New York Times piece on law schools’ problems, “For Law Schools, a Price to Play the A.B.A.’s Way,” David Segal places the responsibility for needless tuition increases on the American Bar Association’s (ABA) accreditation regime.

I think Segal is trying to make three claims here:

(1) The consent decree caused law school tuition to increase over the inflation rate.

(2) Tuition increases at the most well-regarded law schools are caused by U.S. News‘s rankings and the Federal Direct Student Loan Program.

(3) The ABA’s standards cause tuition increases in law schools that are not well regarded by U.S. News.

These are bold statements, particularly the third one, because if they are true, then criticism toward law schools ought to be redirected towards the ABA, and the solutions would probably not require significant modifications to the federal student loan system as it works with law schools.

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