From a reader:
Dear Professor Campos,
I saw your intermittent postings about American University, and you are a tad off the mark. It is worse there than you think.
I am a rising 3L at American. Just for context: 90th percentile LSAT/3.9 UG GPA. Worst mistake of my life. When I was applying in 2011, I had a bunch of personal crises explode in my face, and had less access to resources, like the web, than most. That aside, my decision to attend this garbage trap school is my own, and the guilt from making such a horrific decision has essentially destroyed the entirety of my self worth. My job prospects, coupled with severe personal losses, have driven me to the brink of suicide and I even had to [redacted] to ward off the temptation. It is awful. I am in the top 25% of my class.
I will probably be a debt slave for the rest of my life. Period. I still plan to try to escape this awful conundrum through thrifty living and securing something that will allow me to make some sort of non-IBR payment. The only thing that might help me is fluency in [redacted] but I doubt it. The next year is going to suck hard.
So on to the school’s failings. The professors are pushing to reduce class size, but Dean Grossman is willing to sacrifice what little reputation our school has left by reducing admissions standards. Many students are not only unable to secure post-graduate employment, but even summer employment where they work for free. I have met one person who works for the school who actually gives a damn about helping students find employment, and s/he does not work in OCPD.
OCPD and the Registrar are fully incompetent. One time they even managed to screw up their class rankings and did not catch the mistake for a couple of months, well into the summer. In all seriousness, how hard is it to set up a bell curve? Let me answer the question, a middle school student could do it. OCPD simply does not care. Everybody there thinks they are doing a swimming job (except for maybe the profs, who seem to exhibit guilt).
Some change might be on the way. Dean Grossman is on his way out. This is well deserved. He had the nerve to tell an entire class of unemployed graduates how valuable their degrees were, and that they would pay off in the long run. He also had the nerve to yell at and blame a group of 2Ls and 1Ls who found out about the new ABA employment statistics.
From what I understand admissions will be cut when Dean Grossman leaves. But they still have not figured out the finances (haha just like me when I decided to attend). American experienced a precipitous drop in its rankings once the ABA reporting standards were reworked, however what kills me is that nobody cared about the employment statistics beforehand. It is behind only UDC in terms of employment prospects in the DC metro area.
Oh, and most people in OCPD from my 1L year still have their jobs. It seems like you cannot get fired from that school unless you shoot somebody. As a final kicker, yes American is selling IBR as a way out- and even had a nifty PowerPoint that exclaimed: “Everybody can qualify for IBR!”
. . . Please never give up. I promise I won’t give up trying to repay the taxpayer.
American is perhaps the prime example of a relatively highly ranked law school (currently 56th out of 202 ABA schools, although dropping due to atrocious employment statistics and plunging entrance requirements) that has priced itself completely out of any reasonable relationship to the value of what it offers graduates.
Washington DC is probably the worst entry-level market for attorneys in the country. People in the top third of their classes at Harvard, Columbia etc., who have their pick of jobs in NYC, routinely struggle to get comparable offers in DC. As for the local schools, American is light years behind GULC and George Washington in the race for jobs — which says something, given that GW put nearly a quarter of its 2012 graduating class into school-funded $15 per hour year-long “jobs,” to avoid reporting facially horrendous employment outcomes.
American’s class of 2012, on the other hand, featured a 61% un-and-underemployment rate, if full employment is defined as an actual legal job. Let me repeat that: at present, more than three out of every five American graduates are failing to get legal jobs within nine months of graduation.
American is also one of the most expensive law schools in the country to attend, with a current nine-month estimated cost of attendance of $71,000. On top of this the school gives out very little in the way of tuition discounts, with the result that that 2012 class ended up with an average of nearly $180,000 in law school debt when their first loan payments came due in November.
The school recently broke ground on an enormous new building.
In short, American is a paradigm example of a law school that prices itself as if it were Columbia, when in fact in terms of outcomes for its graduates it’s far more comparable to Thomas Jefferson. As a new paper from Bernie Burk emphasizes, the marked contraction in the market for entry-level legal jobs is mostly a product of the disappearance of several thousand big firm associate positions per year. Those are the only jobs that make the concept of a law school with a $70,000 annual cost of attendance even vaguely economically rational, and there are only enough such jobs to rationalize the existence of perhaps a dozen such schools, at most. (“Rationalize” does not, of course, mean justify. There is no reason any law school should be charging what American charges, unless enriching universities and their most favored employees counts as a reason).