Sunday, December 17, 2017

The ABA 509 reports are out

By last Friday, the law skules had to file their 509 reports for the year 2017–18 with the ABA. The reports can be found here.

While waiting for our friends at Law School Transparency to tabulate the key data in a more approachable form, I have read the reports from a few über-toilets. Some of these odious establishments cashed in, quite literally, on the closure of Indiana Tech, Whittier, and Charlotte: Appalachian grabbed up 16 transfer students from Charlotte and one from Indiana Tech, and Western State took one from Charlotte and 22 from Whittier. Even Cooley, still widely considered the poster child of shittiness despite hot competition and the notorious Cooley rankings (which several years ago placed the toilet second only to Harvard), managed to snatch up four dumb bunnies from Charlotte.

True to their word (for a change), the two remaining InfiLaw toilets managed to improve their LSAT scores considerably, from 141 to a still horrific 145 at the 25th percentile. This feat, however, accompanied a collapse in enrollment: Florida Coastal's entering class fell from 245 last year to 106, and Arizona Summit's fell from 143 to 49. Methinks InfiLaw's days are numbered. To my great disappointment, Appalachian nearly doubled its enrollment, from 38 students to 73. It would have grown even without the influx from Charlotte.

Failing out remains commonplace at the über-toilets. Rates of attrition of 1Ls for reasons other than transferring run well into the double-digit percentages at most of these institutions. Of the ones that I checked, Thomas Jefferson wins the—er, prize with a shocking rate of 37.2%. Remember the old commencement speaker's joke that either you or your neighbor to the right or the left will not be there in a year's time? At Thomas Jefferson, that's an understatement.

More news will follow. In the meantime, feel free to review the 509 reports yourself and post your own comments.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Reality is Incoming

What is everyone freaking out about...?  We'll just increase tuition another 4%, just like we've done for last couple of decades...
 

Cross-posted from PrawfsBlawg:
 
 
[As] a recent article from Inside Higher Ed points out, a more immediate problem for educational institutions and their students may be the Prosper Act's proposed annual lending limits. The bill would limit federal loans for non-medical graduate and professional students to $28,500 per academic year...
 
The GradPlus program does one thing really well--it makes graduate school accessible to students regardless of their family wealth. The federal government offers loans up to the full cost of attendance (defined to include both tuition and reasonably living expenses) for graduate and professional programs. Parents do not have to co-sign the loans. Combined with income-driven repayment plans that cap repayments at 10% to 15% percent of a graduate's income, it makes attending graduate school a low-risk proposition...
 
The Prosper Act would change all of that immediately...there would be an immediate crisis in funding law school--after all, the federal loans would barely cover the cost of living[.]  There would be little to nothing left over to cover tuition. Certainly, some students could rely on family contributions, and some may be able to lessen living expenses by living at home while attending law schools. But not all families are in a position to help, and the legal profession would suffer greatly if only the very privileged could join.  Private loans may step in to fill some of the gap...[but] private loans have decreased so much (declining by more than half) in the years after the introduction of GradPlus that I doubt private lenders could ramp up fast enough to avoid massive disruption in the short term. Finally, any such private loans would probably have more onerous terms[...]
 
 
We can sit here and debate where the various forms of concern-trolling are coming from - some say the Prosper Act is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt by conservatives to stab at the Heart of Darkness that is American Liberal Education and try to kill the beast.  Others will say that limousine-liberals are merely crying champagne tears for the underrepresented, when in reality all they care about is gettin' that next helping of thick-cut pork with extra gravy.  I don't doubt that some mix of both is going on, as human psychology is rarely, if ever, purely altruistic or unburdened by ulterior motives.
 
The practical, Aristotelian reality, however, is that if something can't go on forever, it will stop.   Long before the "law school scam," many have warned, argued and decried against the unbridled escalation of educational costs, of which law schools have become the poster-child.  Much hand-wringing took place, summits were held, people shook their heads sadly - but nothing substantive was done.
 
Well, folks, if you are unwilling to clean up your own mess, then you force someone else to clean it up for you.  See, for example, the Financial Crisis.  And you may not like how the cleaner-uppers choose to handle it, but by then it's Too Late.  And, as per usual, the brunt of it falls on the folks currently mired in the system - yet one way or another, it's coming.
 
All in all, this is why we can't have Nice Things.  Heckuvajob, lol skool cartel!  Mission Accomplished! 
 
 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Off to the Races with a New Year of Applications

It's that time of year again, where LSAC starts reporting the application and applicant tally for 2017-2018!  I, your humble wanna-be data wonk, have been diligently hitting the F5 key for the last several days, and LSAC has updated their website on  December 5, 2017.  Let's see what is going on:


As of 11/24/17, there are 81,877 applications submitted by 15,083 applicants for the 2018–2019 academic year. Applicants are up 14.2% and applications are up 17.1% from 2017–2018.
 
 
 
 
Strangely enough, there appears to be at least two data points on the graph, not one.  Comparing the new data to the older data I have been recording as LSAC publishes it, this time last year the first data point was 14,892 applicants, so I show an increase this year of 1.24%, not 14.2%.   Maybe they are representing a point with a small line, but this would indicate another data point we are not privy to, regardless.
 
Another small anomaly - for the past four years by my reckoning, LSAC always produces their first data point from "Week 48" of the calendar year.  This year, they produced it from "Week 47", which leads me to believe there is another data point out there.  "Who cares?" one may ask, but in the past it has been notoriously difficult to line up yearly data in an apples-to-apples fashion, so I personally believe that the 14.2% increase has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Perhaps it's correct, perhaps not.
 
In any event, expect the Diamonds and Simkovics of the world to declare Mission Accomplished, Problem Solved in the legal education arena.  What more evidence do you need, other than more dupes flooding through the doors?  Although, I do want to make special mention of Matt Leichter's analysis (who is already on our blogroll) - back in 2012-2013, when the Cartel was declaring that by 2016 "things would be different," it appears it is yet still more of the same on the job front. 
 
Happy Days are most decidedly not here again, but now that a handful of law schools have decided to call it quits, everyone must think all of the slack is out of the market.  Time will tell.
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Does anyone want to buy Florida Coastal?

InfiLaw is trying to sell Florida Coastal. If it did so, it would be left with only one law school, namely Arizona Summit, since Charlotte closed down several months ago after losing its license. But Arizona Summit is also in trouble with the ABA and must be suffering financial pressure from rapidly shrinking enrollment.

Measured by the LSAT scores of their entering classes, the InfiLaw toilets (including defunct Charlotte) are among the bottom ten of the 200 or so ABA-accredited law schools. Their median LSAT scores of 143 and 144 represent the 21st and 23d percentiles, respectively—down in the bottom quarter of the pool of people taking the LSAT. Graduates of these über-toilets also face perfectly dreadful prospects of employment. Of last year's graduates, 22% from Arizona Summit and 40% from Florida Coastal were unemployed ten months after graduation, and many others were in short-term, part-time, or non-legal (very likely low-paying) positions. Only 1% from Arizona Summit, and none at all from Florida Coastal, got Big Law. No graduate from either school got a federal clerkship.

Florida Coastal recently had to answer allegations from the ABA of non-compliance with various standards for accreditation. Scam-dean Scott DeVito has claimed that his toilet school is "fully compliant, based on [its] data". Elsewhere we have discussed the accuracy of that claim.

A change of ownership could hold up any disciplinary action against Florida Coastal, but the ABA has the power to prevent any "major change in" Florida Coastal's "organizational structure"—presumably by withdrawing accreditation or imposing other sanctions if the change goes through without the ABA's consent.

I doubt, however, whether Florida Coastal will change hands as a going concern (rather than as a package of land and other assets). Who, after all, would want to buy a failed toilet that has seen its first-year enrollment shrink by more than 70% in six years? that struggles to keep the middle half of its class within the 140s on the LSAT? where a minority of students hold long-term, full-time jobs of any kind ten months after graduation? that faces disciplinary action on multiple grounds from its accrediting authority?

Perhaps some readers of this article will assist the InfiLaw scamsters by posting bids below. Would anyone like to start with 1¢?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

John Marshall to merge with the U of Illinois?

The University of Illinois at Chicago is proposing to absorb the John Marshall Law School) (only the one in Chicago, not the one in Atlanta), thereby forming what someone with a poor sense of grammar, style, and concision would call the University of Illinois at Chicago's John Marshall Law School. Officials ju$tify this proposal on the grounds that UI Chicago somehow needs a law school—everybody else has one, you know—and that John Marshall would benefit from the resources and facilities of a large university backed by the (nearly insolvent) state of Illinois.

In decades past, John Marshall offered working-class people reasonable and affordable access to the legal profession. Today, however, it is a toilet par excellence (so to speak). Its LSAT scores have fallen from a shameful 151/154/157 in 2010 to an utterly contemptible 145/148/151 in 2016. Enrollment, too, has plummeted, from 539 first-year students in 2010 to 282 in 2016. Seventeen percent of last year's graduates were unemployed ten months after graduation, and 15% were in short-term or part-time jobs; only 4% were in Big Law, and none got a federal clerkship. The cost of attendance, $75k per year, would run up a bill exceeding $280k if fully financed with student loans. A third of the class gets no discount on tuition; most others get only a slight discount.

UI Chicago seems to be proud of its reputation. Why, then, is it so eager to take over one of the US's most toilety law schools? Can the putative benefits from this proposed take-over really offset the reputational harm?

Bear in mind that John Marshall does have one thing going for it: land. It was established in 1899, when Chicago was much smaller and land was much cheaper. Perhaps the idea here is to grab the assets (especially the valuable urban land), ship the remaining students down to Urbana–Champaign (home to a formerly faux-prestigious, now plainly toilety, law school shaken by scandal in 2011), and then shut John Marshall down. Just imagine the excuse proffered for public consumption: "Enrollment had fallen by 50% in the few years before we acquired John Marshall, and economic conditions in legal education remain poor. Our feasibility study"—yes, one of these has already been produced, à la Indiana Tech—"convinced us that this project would succeed, but circumstances conspired against us. At least we have a great building, though, which we are going to convert to cozy administrative offices just as soon as we can get rid of the little bast—er, I mean, once the law students have left."

Is this merely an asset-stripping ploy? Could UI Chicago seriously have in mind to sustain a bottom-of-the-barrel law school? I'm eager to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Profiles in shittiness: La Verne, Western State University, Appalachian

To get an idea of the shitty depths to which the law-school scam has fallen, consider three toilet law schools: the University of La Verne, Western State University, and Appalachian School of Law. The data presented below come from Law School Transparency, a valuable resource.

1) THE UNIVERSITY OF LA VERNE

Denied ABA accreditation in 2011, La Verne finally achieved it in 2016. Yet its already abysmal standards have been plummeting: for instance, the LSAT score at the 75th percentile in 2016 (149) is below the LSAT at the 25th percentile in 2011 (150).

Less than 10% of the class gets any discount at all on tuition, and in most cases the discounts are well under 50%. The cost of attendance, when fully financed with student loans, stands just shy of $200k.

What does one get for that price? Nearly half of last year's graduates (47.1%) were unemployed ten months after graduation, and 11.8% were in short-term or part-time positions. Not a single graduate worked in public service or as clerk to a court. The minority that were employed full time, at least by a loose definition of "employment", worked in law firms (almost invariably small ones), "business", or non-academic positions in "education". La Verne provides no information on salaries, but it's clear that very few people coming out of La Verne make enough money to justify the cost of attendance. And of course the half of the class that is unemployed has done poorly indeed.

Only a real schlemiel or schlimazel, the intellectual peer of a Lenny or a Squiggy, would consider attending this dump. Unaccountably, however, first-year enrollment has soared from 44 in 2012 to 116 in 2016.

2) WESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY

Don't be fooled by the name: this "State University" is a private institution. (It has lately changed its name to Western State College of Law at Argosy University.) It was a profit-seeking institution until its sale last month to an entity controlled by a big Bible-thumping church.

More than a fifth of the class pays full fare, and most of the others receive only modest discounts. If fully financed with student loans, a JD from Western State will run up a bill exceeding $284k upon graduation. That's more than the University of Michigan or Berkeley, and only a few thousand dollars less than Yale.

Worth the cost? Ask the 37.4% of last year's graduates who were unemployed ten months after graduation, or the 11.0% that found only short-term or part-time work. Of the rest, all were in small law firms (not a single graduate worked for a firm with more than 50 lawyers), public service, or "business". No graduate had a clerkship. The mean salary, for the relatively few that were employed, was about $59k.

Notwithstanding the manifest shittiness of Western State, first-year enrollment rose by half between 2014 and 2016.

3) APPALACHIAN SCHOOL OF LAW

Located in remote Grundy, Virginia, Appalachian seems likely to close its doors, thanks to high costs and low enrollment. Only Cooley posts lower LSAT scores: Appalachian's last year were 140, 143, and 147 at the 25th, 50th, and 75th percentiles, respectively. Only defunct Charlotte had lower undergraduate GPAs.

All but 3.6% of the students get discounts, which exceed 50% for almost half of the class, although many of those discounts were conditional (and 21.2% of the class saw a reduction or a loss of discounts after the first year). Attendance, fully financed by student loans, leaves a bill of $185k upon graduation.

Last year's graduates fared quite poorly: 31% were unemployed ten months after graduation, and more than 14% were in short-term or part-time positions. No graduate worked for a law firm with more than 10 lawyers. There were a few state and local clerkships, and two graduates reportedly found academic positions. The law school provides no information on salaries, but graduates of an über-toilet deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains can hardly be pulling in princely sums.

Appalachian enrolled only 38 first-year students last year. Maintaining its imposing brick building with so few people, almost all of whom are getting large discounts off tuition, is threatening to sink the law school financially. Proposals to move it to Tennessee or elsewhere are likely to be thwarted by a contract with the county. Closure appears to be in the cards. Students seeking to transfer out of the toilet find themselves obstructed by the non-standard grading system used in first year, which other law schools are reluctant to recognize. Citing its "academic standards" (!), Appalachian refuses to issue conventional letter grades even to people wanting out.

————————————————————————

All three of these toilets, and many others, are fully accredited by the ABA, which seems not to mind dreadful outcomes for students and the absence of meaningful standards of admission.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Valparaiso Exploring Alternatives to its Continued Existence

Let's be clear.  Valpo Law is not closing.  Not yet.  Folding such a great hand would be silly, particularly where Indiana Tech just closed a mere one hundred miles away and after Valpo's  most recent blessing from the ABA should give them incentive to hang on the cliff a bit longer.

No, Valpo Law is just taking an admissions year off, looking for alternatives:
Valparaiso University announced Thursday that is [sic] suspending admissions to its law school and exploring alternative possibilities related to the "severe financial challenges" it's been facing for a number of years.
...
The school mentioned several other options: It could affiliate Valparaiso's law school with another law school or relocate it to a place where the demand for a law education is higher. The school also is preparing plans to allow its current law students to complete their degrees.
It's a Chapter 11, not a Chapter 7.  Sure, Chapter 11 is often a gateway drug to Chapter 7, but hold your cheers, sadists; these law schools are going to hang on for dear life as long as they possibly can.

We could have all sorts of fun with this, like picking new affiliations (Cooley? Infilaw?  Yale-West?) or locations (Alaska? Florida? Fort Wayne?).  We could also ask how and why anyone would merge with Valpo.

But let's think of the students a second.  The school mentions fairness and plans to allow current students to complete their degrees.  But a school clinging dearly to life while facing "severe financial difficulties" and imminent closure isn't doing its students any favors.

What on Earth is the advantage of graduating from a low-tier law school that's closing?  The alumni network moving forward will be disadvantaged, they'll be no career services support, and lawyers everywhere - hiring or otherwise - will mark you as one who went to that school that shuttered.

Wouldn't it be a better service to all but administrative egos to shutter outright?  You can help your better students - the ones who are capable of passing a bar exam - transfer to decent schools where they'll have a better alumni network with future support.  Plus, you might give the bottom rung a shot at a closed school discharge.

This Hail Mary, hoping that the dead parrot flies again, that grandma comes off life support, that your kid actually goes back to college after taking a year off, this failing to throw in the cards when the operation is a sinkhole not assisting in meeting any public demand, isn't just institutional egoism, it's harmful to the very people this "non-profit" has historically claimed to assist.