Stacking Up Law School to Other Grad Programs

By Neetal Parekh on October 29, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Granted, you don't usually hear JDs say, "Yeah, I applied to law, med, vet, and dental school...and then chose law."  Considering the number of pre-requisites needed to gear up to apply to any of the medical profession grad programs, there's not a ton of overlap between those graduate programs and law.  Should there be?  Okay, that's probably another topic for another blog.

In this one, we want to look at the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) report pitting law school against the other grad school options in terms of minority enrollment and cost of education. 

The GAO set out to answer three questions:

1. How do law schools compare with similar professional schools in terms of cost and minority enrollment?

2. What factors, including accreditation, may affect the cost of law school? 

3. What factors, including accreditation, may affect minority access to law school?

And 6 months and 44 pages later, the GAO had some interesting results to share:

  • It costs more to go grad school now than it did in 1994.  Law school fits the upward cost trend along with the other programs.
  • Minority enrollments are up.  And down.  While there representation of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders in law school has increased, enrollment of African Americans has stayed the same or declined.
  • Higher costs aren't because of ABA accreditation requirements.  The GAO things surmised that the increased costs can be attributed to that "hands-on, resource-intensive" approach of law schools employing to beat out competition from other law schools and make headway in the rankings games.  And for state law schools, state budget cuts have also contributed to higher fees for students.

What does this mean for you?

If you are in law school, you are bearing the brunt of higher fees.  And the study serves as witness to the shrinking wallet you may be experiencing from paying increased tuition and incidental fees.  You can join the American Bar Association (ABA) in supporting measures to assist students in professional graduate programs.  The ABA has publicly urged the government to lift the cap on federal loans so that students from diverse walks of life can attend law school--not just those who have the economic means to do so.

If you're out of school, you know only too well what it means to pay back law school loans, on a BigLaw or not-so-BigLaw salary. You can keep your ear to the ground of ways to support efforts to keep the rising cost of law school in check.  Whether through dialoguing with administration, getting involved with the ABA, or helping establish scholarships for current students, there may be ways to ensure that various students from diverse socio-economic backgrounds have the unique opportunity to experience the trials and tribulations of law school, just as you did. 

But don't rely on our reading of the GAO's findings.  Take a look for yourself.  And if you haven't figured out a Halloween costume yet, stay tuned for some legally-inspired ideas tomorrow...


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