First year enrollment at ABA schools:
This fall the 2010 matrics will be replaced by a new entering class. We can roughly estimate its size, because typically 95% of applicants have applied by mid-May. Since last fall law schools have been frantically soliciting applicants, when it appeared the applicant pool might be as small as 52,000-53,000. It now appears it will be around 58,500. If 75% of applicants are accepted to at least one school (this would be a historic high), and 87% of these people — the typical percentage — matriculate, that will produce an entering class of about 38,000 1Ls.
A 28% decline in enrollment over three years sounds daunting enough, but the real situation is probably worse. What these numbers don’t reflect is the extent to which schools are slashing real (as opposed to nominal) tuition, in order to fill even this drastically reduced number of first-year seats.
For example, I just got an email from an applicant who is considering a “scholarship” offer that would save him 60% of the advertised tuition price for a fairly high-ranked law school. (These price cuts aren’t scholarships in the traditional sense of income from an endowed fund that offsets the actual cost of tuition, but rather straight-up price reductions from the advertised rate).
The applicant received this offer just a couple of weeks ago, even though he had been admitted two months earlier. More telling is the fact that the applicant’s LSAT and GPA are both below the median for last year’s matriculants at this school. (Traditionally, discounts of this size off nominal tuition have been employed to lure applicants with significantly higher than average LSAT/GPA numbers). Many schools now seem engaged in the academic equivalent of a Priceline fare war, as they scramble to fill seats with steep discounts at the end of the application cycle, even as they slash admissions standards.
When law school faculties reconvene in three months or so, the $64,000 question they’ll need to pose to their administrative superiors is, exactly how much did we have to cut prices to get this 1L class in the door?