Home / General / The Infilaw bust out and American higher education

The Infilaw bust out and American higher education

Comments
/
/
/
170 Views

I have a piece in the September issue of the Atlantic on for-profit law schools, and what their predatory behavior has to tell us about the increasingly market-driven structure of higher ed in America generally. (While it’s true that the financing of higher education in this country has become a particularly distorted and dysfunctional market, it’s also important to keep in mind that advocates of market solutions to social problems are especially prone to no true Scotsman fallacies).

Across the ideological spectrum, it is almost universally assumed that more and better education will function as a panacea for un- and underemployment, slow economic growth, and increasingly radical wealth disparities. Hence the broad support among liberal, moderate, and conservative politicians alike for the goal of constantly increasing the percentage of the American population that goes to college. Behind that support seems to lurk an inchoate faith—one that is absurd when articulated clearly, which is why it almost never is—that higher education will eventually make everyone middle-class.

That faith helps explain many economic features of American higher education, such as the extraordinarily inefficient structure of federal loan programs, the non-dischargeable status of student debt, and the way in which rising college costs that have far outstripped inflation for decades are treated as a law of nature rather than a product of political choices.

This past April, the Congressional Budget Office projected that Americans will incur nearly $1.3 trillion in student debt over the next 11 years. That figure is in addition to the more than $1 trillion of such debt that remains outstanding today. This is the inevitable consequence of an interwoven set of largely unchallenged assumptions: the idea that a college degree—and increasingly, thanks to rampant credential inflation, a graduate degree—should serve as a kind of minimum entrance requirement into the shrinking American middle class; the widespread belief that educational debt is always “good” debt; the related belief that the higher earnings of degreed workers are wholly caused by higher education, as opposed to being significantly correlated with it; the presumption that unlimited federal loan money should finance these beliefs; and the quiet acceptance of the reckless spending within the academy that all this money has entailed. These assumptions enabled InfiLaw’s lucrative foray into the world of for-profit education. But they have just as surely shaped the behavior of nonprofit colleges and universities.

The result is a system that has produced an entire generation of overcredentialed, underemployed, and deeply indebted young people. Just as the law school reform movement has exposed the extent to which law schools have overpromised and underperformed, similar reform movements are calling into question the American faith in higher education in general, and all its extravagant promises regarding the supposed relationship between more (and more expensive) education and increased social mobility.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Murc

    Also too: there’s always been an unexamined assumption re: “a college degree makes you more employable and increases your earnings potential.”

    The reason it does that is because most people don’t get one. When you have something most people don’t have, that gives you what we call a competitive edge.

    Competitive edges do not scale. If everyone got a college education, that would doubtless be a good thing in many ways (education has societal value that isn’t necessarily quantifiable on a spreadsheet) it would also mean that everyone mopping floors and flipping burgers would have a degree.

    Which would mean we’d have to confront the inequalities in our economic system directly, rather than just chirping “Education!” like that’d fix everything.

    • Mia

      This is an interesting intellectual argument but I don’t think it’s followed through to an actionable conclusion. If more people are getting college degrees (based on their own personal gain), what happens if you don’t get one? One would be at an extreme competitive disadvantage.

      Unfortunately access to education is highly skewed towards people whose families are already doing well. Minorities and low income would be disproportionately impacted by retreating on financial aid.

      • Murc

        If more people are getting college degrees (based on their own personal gain), what happens if you don’t get one? One would be at an extreme competitive disadvantage.

        That’s absolutely true, yeah. And in a way, that’s even worse, isn’t it? Your choices would be “crushing debt load to be on an even keel with the vast majority of your peers” or “massive disadvantage.” There’s no upside there.

        Still, my larger point is that if a certain level of education becomes the lower bound for “normal” level of education, at that point it is providing a significantly reduced advantage than when it was “you’ve done more than most other people.” And that means that larger economic issues come into play, doesn’t it?

        • Mia

          Each individual will weigh their options as they see them. I don’t agree with your premise that there is no ROI in law school or higher education in general from an individual perspective. Yes — education is far more expensive than it should be or used to be but I think there’s still a good ROI for most individuals including myself.

          While I agree with your general point (the more people have a degree, the less the advantage) your argument has several weaknesses from my point of view:
          1) We’re nowhere near “everyone” having a degree. ~40% of Americans have a bachelors or associates, 30% a bachelors and ~10% a masters or professional and only 3% have a professional.
          2) You assume no net growth to the economy as a benefit of all those degrees. I think that’s a faulty assumption.

          I’m assuming you have a degree? Probably a JD? Are you telling me that if you had to do it over again today you would forgo higher education? I’m not sure what the practical implications of your position are

          • Murc

            I don’t agree with your premise that there is no ROI in law school or higher education in general from an individual perspective.

            … good, because that absolutely my premise in any way, shape, or form? I am in fact baffled as to why you’d think it was.

            Yes — education is far more expensive than it should be or used to be but I think there’s still a good ROI for most individuals including myself.

            There absolutely is in a general sense, yes. I don’t think anyone would argue that, including me. In fact I said that! In my very first post!

            We’re nowhere near “everyone” having a degree. ~40% of Americans have a bachelors or associates, 30% a bachelors and ~10% a masters or professional and only 3% have a professional.

            That is true, we are not. However, my post was addressed towards the tendency to assume that educational attainment is some kind of silver bullet that can be used to slay the poverty monster. I would submit that it absolutely is not and that educational attainment doesn’t scale up all the way, for the reasons laid out previously.

            You assume no net growth to the economy as a benefit of all those degrees. I think that’s a faulty assumption.

            I assume no such thing. In the hypothetical situation of people completing seventeen years of formal education being a near-universal thing, there would be a lot of widespread societal benefits. I’m not 100% sure that it would translate into widespread and widely shared economic growth (I could give a fuck about economic growth if it isn’t justly distributed, I really could) but it seems like it couldn’t hurt.

            I’m assuming you have a degree? Probably a JD?

            Ha! I wish I had a JD.

            I have a pair of associates. Yes, a pair of associated instead of a single bachelors. I am aware this is sub-optimal. My early twenties were a time of mistakes.

            Are you telling me that if you had to do it over again today you would forgo higher education? I’m not sure what the practical implications of your position are

            The practical implication is “there’s more to solving our economic woes than educational attainment, because a large part of the reason educational attainment provides an economic advantage is because of the relative scarcity of folks who have achieved high levels of it. If high levels of attainment become widespread, this will no longer be true. Therefore, our economic problems need more robust and wide-ranging solutions.”

            • Mia

              “Ha! I wish I had a JD.”

              Finally — somebody who’s honest!

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              You are welcome to my JD and all of the debt that goes with it.

  • Srsly Dad Y

    Clicking through to the Atlantic, I was briefly interrupted by an ad for something calling itself a “non-LSAT Legal College.”

    • I got one of those, too! Mine said I could earn a legal degree online while I was working. Which is a brilliant strategy, when you think about it, since, by marketing to working people, the “school” could later claim that I was employed.

  • MacK

    And Brian Leiter would appear to have already appeared in the Atlantic’s comment thread, engaging in enthusiastic Freudian projection – with an identity “Mark” that appears to have been set up just for the occasion, referencing the brilliant and right Brian Leiter.

    What an absolute nincompoop – has he not learned from people guessing he was Aduren?

    • Srsly Dad Y

      You did a nice job with him, but the Atlantic thread has already been arglebargled by the early commenters. So far we’ve heard about the million-dollar premium (“according to this article in the Washington Post”); Campos having no credibility because he never criticizes U. Colorado; someone speculating that “InfiLaw students have a superior ROI vs. Colorado or most mid-tier law schools assuming graduates of most schools are making $50-60k on average”; “lawyers are bad at math,” har har….

      • MacK

        Still – have some fun – post a few examples of Brian Leiter using a sock puppet and the “brilliant in his own mind” editing of Wikipedia, etc.

        You know, Disqus forwards this stuff to him – it will drive him wild. Leiter really cannot accept that he is not only not brilliant, but that his personal issues make it almost impossible for him to comment under a “sock-puppet” without every reader familiar with him guessing it is a Leiter post in seconds –

        1. He cannot resist some sort of self-reference which is at a minimum approving, if not self-aggrandising;

        2. He nearly always makes ad hominem attacks;

        3. He consistently engages in Freudian projection;

        4. He usually questions the mental health of someone at some point;

        5. When discussing critics of the law school situation he will usually accused them of hypocrisy

        6. He will cite spurious unnamed sources, uncorroborated accounts and hearsay

        7. With respect to at least Campos he will always try to raise student evaluations (a word of advice to Leiter’s students – if you have not guessed already, he is a vindictive and always seeks to get beyond any anonymity so do’t say anything negative about him in his evaluations (you probably already know)).

        It is so easy to spot Leiter’s posts that it has become a sort of joke sport.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          I went and looked, but was disappointed at the tepid pile-on of Leiter.

          Why, Mary Rosh didn’t even show up to support him, sheesh!

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    “…the way in which rising college costs that have far outstripped inflation for decades are treated as a law of nature rather than a product of political choices.”

    If the “political choices” are things like “let public institutions set whatever price they want”, then yes, it’s a political choice.

    IM(NS)HO, much of the inexorable rise in college costs are a direct result of limited supply and large demand, restrained only by the custom of not changing tuition within an academic year, and a bit of rather anemic competition.

    Public institutions, with tuitions set by governing bodies with a strong social motivation of making education affordable for local kids, once upon a time provided a “public option” to keep prices in check. With the triumph of Reaganoid ideology (both among the free-marketeers on governing boards, and support-slashers in state houses) has killed off “public option” competition in higher-ed.

    It’s very important to get the direction of causality correct; the prices are not cost-driven, the costs are inflated to soak up the cash that the excessive prices produce.

    • Murc

      I yet maintain we should completely level the structure of undergraduate higher education to the ground and rebuild it as an entirely public institution; you’d be entitled to a K-16 education the same way you’re currently entitled to a K-12 one. You can afford to go a pricey private school? Great! Nobody will stop you. You can’t? Society has your back, the same way it had your back when you couldn’t afford a pricey private high school and took a bus down the road to your public one.

      I am aware this is a pipe dream. But at this point “sensible loan reform” is also a pipe dream. If I’m gonna dream, I’m gonna dream big.

      • Mia

        Public schools are oftentimes just as expensive as private schools. The only difference is that the cost is masked through subsidies but society pays for it nontheless. If anything, public institutions have less of an incentive to innovate, control costs and focus on outcomes.

        As an academic administrator I also worry about the word “entitled” in your post. I think this is a far bigger threat to higher education (and society in general) than for-profits. Whether it’s students who feel they should be handed a job upon graduation (and a BMW), employees (including faculty) who believe they’re entitled to their position without accountability for adding value or CEOs and executives who feel entitled to golden parachutes after taking a company (or sector, or whole economy) I think entitlement is a bad bad bad thing for society.

        I’m not a Tea Partier by any means but if you look at all the research on things like grit and perseverance and their impact on success and happiness I think it becomes clear that “entitlement” is the antimatter that destroys success won by grit

        • The Dark Avenger

          I doubt that many people in academia got there because of their ‘grit’.

        • sibusisodan

          As an academic administrator I also worry about the word “entitled” in your post.

          Why? The US was founded upon the belief that people were entitled to things that couldn’t be taken away from them.

          If you’re worried that people are entitled to things they shouldn’t be, that’s a different thing that what you’ve just talked about.

          • Lee Rudolph

            As an academic administrator I also worry about the word “entitled” in your post.

            Why?

            I’ve emboldened the answer for you.

          • Mia

            I appreciate that. However, I would draw the limit of what we’re entitled to well before a free college degree. If you interact with students (or much of anyone these days) many of them are not willing to work hard for things that they think should be given to them. That’s my concern.

            • sibusisodan

              Appreciate the clarification.

              Of course, the older generation believing that the younger generation don’t have what it takes to do hard work anymore has been the observation of every older generation right back to the Romans.

              It doesn’t signify much.

              • Snarki, child of Loki

                “…the older generation believing that the younger generation don’t have what it takes to do hard work anymore has been the observation of every older generation right back to the Romans.”

                See, that’s what we mean by how education has been degraded in this modern age.

                Because you should have said “back to the GREEKS”.

                And probably the only reason that one doesn’t say “back to the Egyptians/Sumerians/Neanderthals” is that those inscriptions haven’t turned up yet.

                “Ogg says kids lazy, expect mammoth keel over outside cave, not want to hunt and drag it back. Ogg now going to shout at clouds”

        • Murc

          Public schools are oftentimes just as expensive as private schools.

          I think you may have misunderstood me. And that’s my fault, I wasn’t clear.

          When I said “public” I didn’t mean in the currently operating definition of a public university.

          I meant “public” in the same way that primary and secondary education is public. By which I mean free. Nobody has to cut a check or take out loans to go to high school; you just show up and they educate you. Gratis! Because we as a society recognize that providing an education is a broad public good that benefits us all.

          That’s what I meant when I said “raze it to the ground, rebuilt it as a public institution.”

          Whether it’s students who feel they should be handed a job upon graduation

          They absolutely should be.

          If our society is going to judge peoples worth based on their being productive and contributing (and make no mistake, it does exactly this) then society should guarantee employment and a living wage.

          • Mia

            Murc — I appreciate your position here but I think we come from different perspectives on the societal implications of such things. Having been a consultant in K-12 I don’t have a lot of illusions about the effectiveness of most public institutions. A lot of reformers will blame teachers or administrators or school budgets but in most cases I think the student, their family and community — specifically their willingness to work hard and prioritize education — is a key driver.

            This is perhaps a discussion for another time but in general I think there’s a lot of benefit to hard work and competition…and yes, with a reasonable wage and chance of success.

            • Paul Campos

              If I were an administrator at a bottom-feeding Florida law school I would probably make similar claims about individual as opposed to structural failure.

              Encouraging people to “work harder” does absolutely nothing about the basic structural issue, which is that we’re currently graduating about twice as many people from college as there are jobs that require college credentials (“malemployment”). The fact that law schools graduate twice as many students as there are jobs for lawyers is just a small piece of a much larger problem.

              • Mia

                Paul — I’m not an administrator at a bottom-feeding Florida school but thanks for speculating. It seems that this assumption was also faulty. You’re on a roll!

                No that we’ve returned barb for barb can we focus on a respectful discussion?

                Let’s examine your assumption that we have “twice as many students as there are jobsfor lawyers”…

                Ignoring that JD Advantage and Professional jobs have a higher salary than many small firm jobs and are not taken into account in your calculation… (for students of non-elite pedigrees I suspect many of these jobs are significant upgrades to their pre-law school job which is the relevant factor here … but we can ignore that if you want)…

                With 30-40% fewer graduates in the next 3-4 years that problem will likely rectify itself especially when you take into account (as few do) that the first time bar pass rate is 77%. Putting the math together … even if I take your 50% number as correct (which discounts all non-lawyer jobs) … with a 30-40% reduction in grads we’d have 60-70% of current graduating class … only 77% pass the bar so only 45-55% would even be eligible after 9 months … hmmm… we could be heading for a shortage and overcorrection in the market even before we get into the merits of a JD advantaged or other professional degree.

            • BoredJD

              How did you manage to move those goalpoasts all the way to Mars? NASA (or whatever will be left after we’re done privatizing it) could sure use your help.

              • Unemployed_Northeastern

                To Infilaw and beyond!!!

        • BoredJD

          “Oftentimes” is a bit of hyperbole. Sure, the University of Michigan might be more expensive than the University of Phoenix. But the vast majority of students aren’t going to be choosing between Phoenix and Michigan, they are going to be choosing between Phoenix and their local CC. The latter delivers the same or better results for vastly less money. There was simply no need, never was, for “for-profit” education.

          • Mia

            If there wasn’t a need for for-profit education then the market wouldn’t exist. For profit education exists because the establishment wasn’t meeting needs.

            YOU may not need it, but until you understand the needs of people locked out by the current system I’m not sure you understand the issue.

            Look at the City Colleges of Chicago. Last I checked they had ~10% graduation rate for degree seeking students. Is this the model we aspire to?

            • The Dark Avenger

              The reason for-profit schools exist is for profit, not to serve their suckers students.

              • Mia

                About as much as non profits exist so that tenured faculty members can be protected from the real world.

                If find each of those observations to be about as fair — i.e. for me, they are gross exaggerations that do not reflect reality

            • sibusisodan

              If there wasn’t a need for for-profit education then the market wouldn’t exist.

              Historically, for-profit education existed before non-profit education. Not-for-profit education came about – at least in my country – because the for-profit education wasn’t meeting the right needs. It was meeting its own needs for profit, not the country’s needs for education.

            • BoredJD

              Do not presume to tell me what “needs” I do not understand or what you think my background is. For-profit education exists because people know they can make a profit from it. Whether the students of those schools need the degrees they provide is irrelevant.

              “Look at the City Colleges of Chicago. Last I checked they had ~10% graduation rate for degree seeking students. Is this the model we aspire to?”

              You cannot look at cohort graduation rates of any CC without looking at transfer rates, which in the CCC system are around 30%. Furthermore, what would you rather have- a worthless degree and mountains of student loan debt, or no degree and much less student loan debt? What you don’t seem to understand is that not all “BAs” are created equal nor does every BA result in a ticket to the middle-class. If that’s the system we live in, then the risk to the student must be kept extremely low- in for-profit education, as the article points out, we have a system that seeks to shift as much risk as possible onto the student.

              And there is an obvious reason why graduation rates are higher at for-profits, which you’ll understand if you figure out if you know why selling someone four cars is more profitable than selling them one.

              I aspire to a model of fully-funded public institutions. I do not aspire to a model of graft.

            • themmases

              Look at the City Colleges of Chicago. Last I checked they had ~10% graduation rate for degree seeking students. Is this the model we aspire to?

              Nice try, but there are people reading this who actually attended a City College.

              Many of the CCCs’ courses of study are vocational and certificate programs, and their academic programs are aimed at providing a cheap and effective way to gain gen. ed. credit and transfer to a 4-year school. If you had bothered to look through their catalog, you would know that they also provide stand-alone life and job skills classes, just for fun classes to adult community members, and credit non-degree enrollment, few if any of which contribute to the schools’ graduation rate.

              I’m one of Malcolm X College’s non-graduates. I attended for a semester to knock out some basic science courses before starting grad school in the fall. My classmates were overwhelmingly already employed in health care (MXC is home to nursing and other medical programs) but looking to improve their credentials, or had been working so long that they needed to repeat some science credits before earning their next certificate in their field. It was probably the most interesting, relevant mix of classmates I’ve ever had. Poor us.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Murc: If only. Preach it, brother.

        Since the vast majority of UGs are at public universities, just getting those back on track would do a lot. But now that even the public university admins are addicted to the sweet, sweet piles of tuition cash, forcing them to go cold turkey (followed by trustees/board cracking the whip on costs&tuition) is going to be very difficult, probably using the IRS to deliver Weapons of Mass (price) Deflation.

        • BoredJD

          That assumes we can find trustees who aren’t installed by powerful administrators. They’re probably hiding right behind the Board of Directors willing to take a hard line on executive compensation.

  • The InfiLaw web site is the perfect facade to this candy-coated chamber of horrors. On the landing page: “This mission is grounded in three pillars that include serving the underserved, providing a student-outcome centered education, and graduating students who are practice-ready.” Note to InfiLaw writing team: Those don’t INCLUDE the pillars; they ARE the pillars. It’s like the Monty Python sketch on the Spanish Inquisition.

    And here’s the best (?) part: “Our schools have been nationally recognized and ranked as Top 10 or Top 20 law schools with respect to moot court programs and diversity.” Never have I seen a happier typo.

    • sibusisodan

      moot court

      As a non-lawyer, I can only assume a moot court is, like, twelves cows’ opinion.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        No, that’s a typo.

        The leading conservative legal scholars assure us, via the Halbig case, that it should be “Moop Court”.

        • sibusisodan

          Win.

      • Lee Rudolph

        To be distinguished, no doubt, from twelve gamers’ opinion—a w00t! court?

  • BoredJD

    Jesus the Infilaw trolls must have been at DEFCON 1 for the last few days waiting for this article to pop up.

  • PSP

    Is focusing on bar passage really the right approach? I would expect a for profit school to look a lot like a Barbri class, if only because a low passage rate is such an obvious black mark.

    Hell, if the history I’ve read is correct, 75 years ago most law schools were glorified Barbri classes.

    • Mia

      If I was in for profit education I would focus on what the customer wanted which I assume would be to pass the bar and get a good job which I could be successful at while paying off my debts. The market is oddly rational over time

      Interestingly, this is exactly what most law schools (and higher education institutions) do NOT focus on. In most schools the professors opine about topics of interest to them and assume that their students are capable of passing the bar and getting a job on their own since they only select students with elite pedigrees.

      The real problem I have with higher education is not the financial aid system or for-profits; it’s that the vast majority of institutions do little to add value to the lives of their students and instead focus on selection and branding. If for profits are taking in students that other institutions have discarded as “unworthy” and “incapable” then they should be judged by their outcomes. Clearly the challenge is greater than an elite institution but if they’re able to get good outcomes for their students (relative to what they otherwise would be doing … not necessarily what would make elites happy) then they would be doing something that most traditional institutions who have Harvard-envy have not been able to do: add value to society.

      But then … my family is the type of family that would be viewed as “unworthy” and “incapable” so clearly I have a chip on my shoulder. I didn’t go to an InfiLaw school but I know a few people who did and I would just caution people from underestimating hard working young adults without elite academic pedigress — we’re coming for your jobs.

      • BoredJD

        “If I was in for profit education I would focus on what the customer wanted which I assume would be to pass the bar and get a good job which I could be successful at while paying off my debts. The market is oddly rational over time.”

        No. If you were in for profit education you would focus on what the shareholders (who sign your paychecks) want, which is to make a profit. And it’s a lot harder to do that actually “adding value” than just riding the federal loan gravy train and trying to misrepresent or fluff up employment stats than actually run a cheap law school that doesn’t ruin people’s lives. That’s the point of the article that you obviously missed.

        Look, schools focus on selection and branding because employers focus on selection and branding. Harvard students are hired into biglaw firms at an 85% rate in spite of “the professors opine about topics of interest to them and assume that their students are capable of passing the bar and getting a job on their own since they only select students with elite pedigrees.” No amount of “innovation” and “value adding” is going to change that because it’s a systemic feature of the legal profession.

        There are ways that lower ranked law schools can be worth it for graduates, but those are in direct opposition to what will maximize the profits of either the shareholders or, if it’s a non-profit, the major stakeholders, which is as many students as possible paying as much money as the government will lend.

        “But then … my family is the type of family that would be viewed as “unworthy” and “incapable” so clearly I have a chip on my shoulder.”

        I went to an Ivy League law school and knew many people from humble backgrounds. There are certainly structural issues with American education as a whole that make it harder for students without wealth to get the LSAT/GPA scores needed for your Cornells and NYUs, but that’s no excuse for the grift that goes on at lower-ranked law schools. As an individual matter, that student would be much better served going into the workforce after college and finding an industry that is not as prestige-conscious or saturated as law.

        • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System

          I went to an Ivy League law school

          You can just say “Penn.”

          • Unemployed_Northeastern

            They’ve really gone downhill since the whole Sandusky thing.

            End ATL-style trolling, though I actually did read an article last year about how the very best MBA applicants used to apply to HBS, SBS, and Wharton, but now they just apply to HBS and SBS. Can’t remember where I saw it, though.

            • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System

              Oh, it’s a joke from a week or two ago, when it was observed that whenever someone says they went to an “Ivy league law school” they invariably mean Penn. (And not Cornell for some reason.)

              • Unemployed_Northeastern

                Ah, I must have missed that.

        • Mia

          Alright … I actually have worked for and with for-profit universities and I can tell you … our focus was first and foremost on doing right by the students as we knew students didn’t flock to us just because of our brand, rankings or sports teams (which traditional schools rely on). As a consultant I’ve worked extensively with both sides (for profit and traditional) for 5 years. There’s a difference. There are bad for profits and good for profits but the good ones focus primarily on outcomes whereas traditional institutions seem more focused on rankings and reputation.

          Harvard students are hired into biglaw firms at an 85% rate in spite of “the professors opine about topics of interest to them and assume that their students are capable of passing the bar and getting a job on their own since they only select students with elite pedigrees.” No amount of “innovation” and “value adding” is going to change that because it’s a systemic feature of the legal profession.

          Some people believe things are possible, others do not. As a general rule, I try not to take the system as it is but work towards things that I want it to become. Maybe that’s why I have some sympathy for the InfiLaw schools and some other for profits — because I believe they aren’t just taking the world as it is.

          • BoredJD

            I don’t really care what someone intends or aspires to. I care about the results their actions produce. And the results of for-profit colleges is that poor and working class students take on a ton of student loan debt and end up working mostly the same jobs they had before they went to school. Corinthian Colleges and now ITT Ed are the first of many to fall.

            The way to fix the problems with traditional education is to fix the problems with traditional education. All I want is the same deal my parents generation got- cheap college that you can pay for by working a part-time job. That’s much more realistic than continuing to beat the for-profit horse.

      • LawDdaw

        Are you a paid troll for Infilaw, Mia?

        Prof. Campos has cast a critical eye on the higher education business, law schools in particular, and has done a tremendous service. Law schools controlled the narrative for decades, never shining a bright light on the employment outcomes and ignoring the cost/benefit of a legal education. As the tuition/outcomes gap grew wider and wider, and as schools proliferated in the last 20 years, the disconnect between tuition and outcomes grew unsustainable. Hence the correction, which means declining apps for many schools.

        Many law schools were content to hide behind US News employment and salary figures, rationalizing away this kind of less-than-accurate disclosure. I can’t say Coastal did this, but I do find it fascinating how many in legal education are flummoxed by the critical attention. The internet makes “hide the ball”, or, as the case may be, “hide the employment outcomes”, a difficult task, and the ABAs new reporting standards, deficient as they are, have put enough light on the ugly dark corners of legal education, causing potential students to say “no thanks.”

  • Mia

    I thought the Campos article in the Atlantic was incredibly weak and I’m kind of surprised they posted it. The logic and analysis throughout is suspect.

    My incoming bias is that I’m from a Hispanic family which didn’t have an “elite” academic or social pedigree. I think the major blindspot in Campos’ perspective is that the world he envisions would lock out a lot of minorities and low income families from opportunities. He may not see the value in an InfiLaw or other type of degree but IMHO he resorts to fiction and stretches of his imagination to support his case. I didn’t go to an InfiLaw school but I do know a few graduates who have been plenty successful and who are happy to have had a chance at a JD degree when nobody else would give them that chance (as they would deem them “severely unqualified” based on a standardized test score… we all know those are reliable and without bias, right? But they look good in the beauty contest of US News rankings … and can we all just agree we want to be like Harvard? ).

    Some specific points:
    1) Campos’ viewpoint to me is exactly what’s wrong with the established higher education market. He seems to believe that students with the top 50% of LSAT scores should be admitted to the elite club while the other 50% should be discarded as “severely underqualified”.
    2)As a result of this position, he would essentially guarantee that the profession of law remain skewed towards the established (largely white) elite leading to continued racial and socio-economic bias in the justice system as the low LSAT scores are disproportionately minority. Some may feel that it’s the “(elite) white man’s burden” to take care of their minority brethren but I prefer a legal system where people doing the lawyering actually understand the people they represent.
    3)Instead of relying on publically available data (e.g. debt levels; salary) he makes stuff up (admitting as much) and relies on unnamed sources and anecdote. As he says “lawyers are not good at math” and while I don’t know if that’s broadly true he demonstrates the point with his own analysis.
    ==> He arrives at >$200k for FCSL grad debt when the actual number is $150k accordig to US News. Colorado by comparison is $115k while serving students with arguably a wealthier family background who don’t have to take on as much debt / risk to pursue their dreams
    ==> He claims 1% of grads have a solid return on investment by making faulty assumptions which would show the number at Colorado would only be 10% (gasp … shut ‘er down!)
    ==> He ignores publically available salary data which shows the salary for Charlotte grads ($56k) is similar to that of Colorado grads ($59k).
    ==> He doesn’t seem to understand this segment of the market and what they would otherwise be doing if not going to law school. Many of the people I know who went to InfiLaw schools were making <$35-40k before going so making $50-60k is a big deal for them. Maybe it isn't for a Colorado student who otherwise would be making $50-60k

    In the comments section in the Atlantic article an FCSL administrator called him out on another assumption. Campos asserts, based on third-hand knowledge of an LSAC analysis that "in the class that Florida Coastal admitted in 2013, more than half the students were unlikely to ever pass the bar." While that may be true for the market in general, according to the post at FCSL the pass rate for low LSAT students (<145) is apparently 70-80% showing that FCSL is outperforming on bar pass relative to other law schools. In my opinion they should be applauded for serving students everyone else judgets as unworthy and then outperforming on key outcomes such as this one.

    The reason all this upsets me is that I think it's a great example of an elite denigrating institutions who serve the disadvantaged based on information they don't understand with the purpose (I can only presume) of protecting their own advantage. If Campos was really concerned about the students for-profits serve, I imagine he would work harder to understand their situation and wouldn't have to rely on faulty logic (while ignoring public data) to justify his position. Are the InfiLaw schools or other for-profits perfect? Of course not. But Campos is throwing stones from a glass house based on a series of faulty assumptions.

    • Theartfuldodgers

      Many of us are already on the outside looking in. It makes no sense to pretend that paying 170k to Infilaw is enough to unlock the door. That’s the point.

    • Paul Campos

      The “publicly available” salary figure you quote for Charlotte grads doesn’t include any information on how many grads are represented by that $56K figure, which obviously makes the figure worthless.

      “Access for minorities” is the favorite rationalization of law school administrators at bottom tier law schools that hand out thousands of worse than useless degrees every year.

      The estimated debt figures for FCSL grads include accrued interest and undergraduate debt. They are actually very conservative estimates.

      • Mia

        Ah … so it’s safe to assume then that at the University of Colorado the debt level would also be at / near $200k?

        I think this post highlights the problem I have with your article Paul. I think you start to lose credibility when you resort to hyperbole and unsubstantiated claims that you take as self evident. That’s my opinion of course but as you work to hone your craft you may take that feedback into account.

        The “publicly available” salary figure you quote for Charlotte grads doesn’t include any information on how many grads are represented by that $56K figure, which obviously makes the figure worthless.

        Obviously? It would seem to me to be a better estimate than creating a fictitious metric which shows 1% getting an ROI when at your own school it would be only 10% (especially now that I understand that your debt calculation would have Colorado grads burdened by nearly $200k in debt). “Obviously” then it seems Colorado should be shut down by the same logic. Assuming that test of the logic doesn’t hold, then I don’t see how you can use it for other schools but not your own.

        “Access for minorities” is the favorite rationalization of law school administrators at bottom tier law schools that hand out thousands of worse than useless degrees every year.

        This is may biggest concern. You unconcerned with “access for minorities”. Please correct me. Admittedly this is a nerve for me … but you denigrate the work of a lot of people working to provide access to minorities (and those in low socioeconomic families) when traditional higher education has done a terrible job serving these students. For profits in general have helped a lot of families achieve middle class status and many more are trying. Speaking from my own experience, that is something that resonates for generations within a family.

        You don’t like for-profits? Fine. What’s your solution to expanding access to minorities? It seems to me that your position is to double down on using LSAT scores as a gating factor in order to make the profession of law more elite (white, priviledged) than it was in the past. Meanwhile we have a criminal justice system where the “criminals” are disproportionately minority and the “counsel” is disproportionately white, male and priviledged. I’m sure we’re all well versed on the problems with that as a system. It seems to me that the InfiLaw system is helping change that when school like your own have been all too willing to protect the status quo and now you want to double down on that status quo. I agree that the establishment has little interest in helping minorities with low LSATs become successful as you deem them “severaly unqualified”. The InfiLaw schools are willing to work with them to help them become successful but their criteria of success doesn’t fit your own standard while creating additional competition for the jobs you’d like to protect for the priviledged elite. What’s the solution or is that not a problem for you?

        • Paul Campos

          My biggest concern is that you’re either a Latina who makes her living by ripping off large numbers of minority students by offering them largely worthless degrees, or (more likely, as MacK points out) some white guy pretending to be a Latina who makes his living by ripping off large numbers of minority students by offering them largely worthless degrees.

          • Mia

            I’m glad each of you have fantasies of me as a Latina. I hope that didn’t get you all excited but I’m actually a man and Mia is short for Miami.

            I like how you ignore the previous post though. I don’t think “affirmative action” has been very effective at solving these types of societal problems as another poster suggests is the solution.

            Plus Paul, I’d love to hear your take on why your own institution should be held to a different standard when it comes to ROI … $200k of debt by your own logic and only 10% have a chance to pay it off. Or are we supposed to accept on blind faith that because you have a 162 median LSAT that your school adds value as the students are “qualified”? Just over 10% hispanic and african american … sounds about right. Not exactly a bastion for social mobility — I just wished schools would publish socioeconomic data as well.

            http://www.colorado.edu/law/sites/default/files/Std509InfoReport-22-23-01-16-2014%2015-29-40.pdf

    • BoredJD

      1) There are already affirmative action programs in place at most elite law schools. They do not totally remedy the problem, but let’s not act like Infilaw schools are the cure for the problem of underrepresentation in the legal profession when their students aren’t getting good jobs. An unemployed JD is not a lawyer.

      2) I’m not sure why you ignore the 100+ ABA law schools that are not “elite” but are not Infilaw or similar non-profits. Florida State’s median LSAT is 159, their tuition is $20K, and their employment stats are decent. The middle ground between “no opportunity” and “an Infilaw school” is to retake the LSAT and get into a school with decent employment outcomes with a large scholarship. The LSAT is learnable up to a point, even small increases in LSAT score are worth a ton of money, and you certainly don’t need to take expensive prep courses to do it.

      Given the number of transfers out of Coastal, I’d venture to say a significant portion of the class went in with the goal of transferring. Many probably failed. Those students would have undoubtedly been better off working for a few years while prepping for the LSAT. Coastal is simply unnecessary.

      3) Again, if you read the article, Campos states that Infilaw schools are really just a more extreme example of the problems that plague all law schools, whether non-profit or for-profit. That he did not choose to write about Colorado, a school that is less expensive than Coastal and offers better job prospects, is not to be taken as acceptance of Colorado’s practices.

      4) The publicly available data is out there on jobs and debt and it’s not good:

      http://www.lstscorereports.com/schools/floridacoastal/2013/
      http://www.abarequireddisclosures.org/

      USNWR does not take into account all factors that go into the final debt at repayment. LST’s numbers and the 509 disclosures are more accurate. Please learn more about this topic before you continue to post.

      5) “Many of the people I know who went to InfiLaw schools were making <$35-40k before going so making $50-60k is a big deal for them. Maybe it isn't for a Colorado student who otherwise would be making $50-60k"

      First, we have no independent salary data for Coastal grads, but the job numbers we have suggest that the median salary is lower than 50-60K. Second, even if it was 50-60K, the proper comparison would take into account what the 35-40K student would be earning with 3 years more experience in the same career as well as the debt load they end up with out of Coastal. Someone who is earning 35-40K will, after three years and no debt, be in a much better financial position than the Coastal grad.

      • Mia

        1) There are already affirmative action programs in place at most elite law schools. They do not totally remedy the problem, but let’s not act like Infilaw schools are the cure for the problem of underrepresentation in the legal profession when their students aren’t getting good jobs. An unemployed JD is not a lawyer

        Affirmative action is not the solution … drop in the bucket. I think “good jobs” is a relative term that people of different backgrounds will disagree on. My standard for a good job is making significantly more over my life than I otherwise would (while enjoying my work).

        2) I’m not sure why you ignore the 100+ ABA law schools that are not “elite” but are not Infilaw or similar non-profits. Florida State’s median LSAT is 159, their tuition is $20K, and their employment stats are decent.

        Eck … a 159 LSAT is in the top quartile of all LSAT takers. This continues to lock the vast majority of society (including most minorities) out of the legal profession. The same could be said of just about any profession which is why for profits (and unranked non profits) exist.

        http://www.cambridgelsat.com/resources/data/lsat-percentiles-table/

        3) Again, if you read the article, Campos states that Infilaw schools are really just a more extreme example of the problems that plague all law schools, whether non-profit or for-profit. That he did not choose to write about Colorado, a school that is less expensive than Coastal and offers better job prospects, is not to be taken as acceptance of Colorado’s practices

        By my calculation … marginally less expensive (by Paul’s own math Colorado would have close to $200k when you factor in undergrad debt + interest), marginally better job prospects, significantly larger opportunity cost since those students would likely be making a fair amount.

        I assume Paul didn’t write about it because he works there and it doesn’t fit his agenda or what I think is his understanding of the world (for-profit = evil; low standardized test scores = unworthy)

        • BoredJD

          1) Affirmative action is not going to fix all the problems, but it’s much better than opening up schools that are giving out degrees that the students are not going to use. How exactly does it help remedy underrepresentation in the legal profession if the people getting degrees aren’t actually becoming lawyers or are going back to their old jobs? Why not just increase the classes at Florida and Florida State by more students? What is the “value add” of the education?

          2) No, closing ineffective, expensive schools doesn’t “lock” anyone out. It delays admission to law school for people who don’t want to study for the LSAT. If your position is that minorities can’t improve their LSAT scores with studying, then you’re wrong. Now many students don’t know that they can improve by studying or they are unaware of the benefits- that’s something to be addressed by improved career and financial aid counseling at the college level, not through massive investments in for-profit colleges that are not needed.

          It appears that you want a law school for literally every person who applies, regardless of their chances of passing the bar. I understand that as a “consultant” your job is essentially tied to the federal loan system so you have a vested interest in seeing it expand, but as a matter of social policy and common sense it’s not going to help a poor kid from Miami to take on 250K of debt for a degree that will give them a negative earnings premium.

          3) Again, you need to read more about this topic. Paul has written extensively on it. He’s been critical of his own law school, of other public non-profit law schools, and of law schools much higher ranked and more “elite” than UColorado, such as GW. You are a “consultant” who doesn’t seem understand anything about the problems facing poor and working class kids (hint: it’s not “lack of access to education”) or how higher education interacts with the overall job market.

    • MacK

      Mia – let me start by saying that I think your post is suspect and weak – because it repeats a set of talking points. In other words I am inclined to guess that you have an Inflaw connection or indeed that you are working for Inflaw. The effort to suggest that the criticism of Inflaw is racist or classist is pretty well aligned with Inflaw’s standard approach.

      So for example – you make the odd argument that Campos seems to think that “top 50% of LSAT scores should be admitted to the elite club while the other 50% should be discarded as “severely under qualified”, but this statement does not exist anywhere in his article. What he did state was that there was a correlation between the LSAT scores of students and their ability to pass the bar and likely employment prospects. Part of why I suspect that you are from Inflaw is that you simply leap past that point.

      Next you make a pretty racist (and interesting inverted racist point) that: “(elite) white man’s burden” to take care of their minority brethren but I prefer a legal system where people doing the lawyering actually understand the people they representing.” First, let me point out that this statement makes me wonder if you are in fact a white executive posing as a hispanic woman (I am very close to some hispanic women), because this sounds pretty well like a caricature of what such a person would assume a hispanic woman or black woman would think. Part of the reason I think you are an Inflaw sock puppet is that your Disqus identity has shown up on the Atlantic in the linked article – but it has been created solely to comment on this article (10 posts so far.) Even if you are who you say you are (and this is not an Inflaw spin line), more than anything else what matter is the quality of counsel that the poor and marginalised have access to.

      You then try the US news says Florida Coastal debt levels are $150k and not $200k. This is straight out of the Inflaw spin book – first US News debt figures are well known to be suspect. Second the $200+ number comes from mandated reporting and more likely to be reliable. Third, for someone earning $40-60k a debt burden of $150k is still huge.

      If you are going to say there is publicly available reliable data for Charlotte grads – why not link to the source – so everyone can see if it is reliable. By the way $150k in debt with $56k in salary is pretty grim. On top of that, for a non-inflaw shill, you seem to have a lot of data about 3 supposedly different law schools at your fingertips.

      You accuse him of not knowing this sector of the market, but then revealingly state “Many of the people I know who went to InfiLaw schools were making <$35-40k before going so making $50-60k is a big deal for them." The knowing many people who went to an Inflaw school with knowledge or their pre-law earnings points to someone who is an Inflaw insider.

      Finally the data on pass rates for the bar is based on national data – which I suspect you know.

      In short I suspect your posts were either talking points written by a large white male, a white woman and an Inflaw executive – or that you are indeed such a person.

      • Mia

        I am male and hispanic (Mexican American). My wife if 100% Colombian and a lawyer. Mia is a city reference not a name but thanks for playing. I’m glad you’re “very close to some hispanic women” and I can guarantee you that you’re not as close as me.

        I do know quite a few students who went to FCSL and ASLS and a few that went to FIU and Stetson and FAMU a couple that even went to Cooley — so what? Do you? I’m also pretty well versed with law school data in general as I’ve helped guide students to different law schools. The data sources are pretty straightforward so let me know if you want facts on another school as it all comes from 2-3 sources including the ABA Employment data, US News, etc. Plus most of what I summarized here were points I thought were relevant from the Atlantic article comments.

        Stripping out the ad hominem attacks in the above, I find your most relevant point that $150k is a lot of debt for making $50-60k afterwards. I just don’t blame the InfiLaw schools or other unranked law schools for serving students the elites do not and I stand by my point that, even if you think the ROI at these schools is worse, it’s likely better than it is for schools like Colorado when you take into account the opportunity cost / what the students could otherwise be doing.

        • MacK

          I’m glad you’re “very close to some hispanic women” and I can guarantee you that you’re not as close as me.

          Your guarantee would then be one you had to pay out on.

      • MacK

        And Mia – I don’t believe you.

        You started posting at the Atlantic at about midnight – before the article in question was even up on the landing page and continued to 1-4am. At the same time a bunch of other uniformly Inflaw defenders all showed up. All had just created accounts to post on this one topic. You have never showed up at this site before – you have to track record of prior existence. Everything you post is pro-Inflaw spin and talking points. Frankly, the evidence points to you being a fraud, a flack for inflow and possibly the same person as Shabazz Al Arribaq.

        So there you have it folks – this is how desperate Inflaw is.

        • Paul Campos

          That is a particularly amusing detail. The article went up on the Atlantic site at midnight EDT and yet remarkably enough a host of wholly disinterested commenters came to Infilaw’s defense in the wee small hours. (I wonder how “Mark” — a great admirer of the works of Brian Leiter — came to be surfing the Atlantic’s site at such an odd hour?)

          • MacK

            Paul,

            The article went up – but I don’t think it was visible on the Atlantic “landing page” until afternoon EST – while your post here went up at around 8am EST. So despite essential invisibility so many new commentators plus “Mark” were reading the article and had detailed rebuttals at 1-3am?

            Wow! Putin’s little Moscow troll-boiler-rooms are slower.

            • OhioDocReviewer

              Perhaps Leiter or the Infilaw gang knows someone who works at The Atlantic and that source gave the shills a heads up.

              • Paul Campos

                The Infilaw people have known for months that the article was coming out because of the reporting and fact-checking process. That process made me aware that Infilaw hired a PR firm to deal with the fallout from the article, and I wouldn’t be surprised if “Mia” is either actually with that firm or being paid by it, since he/she is now busy trying to throw dust in the air at Above the Law.

                Luckily this article goes out to around a half million subscribers in the print edition, sans sock puppet commenters.

  • ichininosan

    The commenters at the Atlantic are quite a group. I wish more of them would join the discussion here:

    1. “Mia” appears to have joined the Internet today for the sole purpose of arguing that graduates of Infilaw schools have a positive return on investment.

    2. “Shabazz El Arribaq,” another commenter that joined the Internet today recites the “million dollar law degree” fallacy and touts the sublime virtues of life on income based repayment.

    3. “MilaLaw” is also (you guessed it) new to the Internet. MilaLaw has been tasked with concocting baseless ad hominem attacks about the author.

    4. Then there is “Mark” the sock-puppet (also new to the Internet). In addition to graciously explaining what an ad hominem attack is, Mark is apparently a big-fan of “a University of Chicago law professor (Brian Leiter) who runs the school’s Center for Law, Philosophy and Values”

    5. Finally, meet “Michael.” “I’m an administrator at Florida Coastal…”

    I feel like I’ve met these people before…

    • MacK

      Mia and Shabazz seem to have been created so that the Inflaw sock puppets can include a white executive’s fantasy of an “angry black man {Nation of Islam]” and Mia a fake hispanic woman. Interesting that they are posing identical spins – and both seem to be caricatures.

      • throwaway

        Made an account to point out that everyone else is just a caricature of an angry white man on this internet web site. Now get off my lawn!

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      My thoughts exactly.

  • OhioDocReviewer

    “Why should white students be the only ones with the opportunity to be fleeced enroll in sub-par law schools? Equal penury opportunity for all!”

    • Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb

      Between InfiLaw, payday loans, title pawn, and reverse mortgages, it’s so great that the free market is offering so many opportunities to minorities and the disadvantaged!

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    Comments over at The Atlantic appear to have been closed, and MacK’s posts discussing our favorite prawf’s sock puppetry have been deleted, no doubt for their insolence. Insolence!

    • MacK

      I suspect that Inflaw sent a “strongly worded” legal letter to the Atlantic – and Leiter made his usual huff n’ puff about defamation (something he seems to have little difficulty engaging in.) It is interesting – since it is Paul’s article maybe he can demand to know more from the Atlantic and publish the gory details – thus devastating Inflaw and Leiter’s reputations further.

      The did not just take down posts about the puissant – they also grabbed the ones suggesting that Mia and Shabazz were fake. I think they grabbed a few other people’s making the same points.

      Let’s see Inflaw’s legal letter, come on. Send me on and I’ll circulate it folks.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Feel free to post any such insolent content here…

    • OhioDocReviewer

      One day, every knee shall bow before the omnipotent will of Zod…I mean, Aduren.

      • MacK

        So cowardly is the Atlantic that the only post left up that mentions Leiter is the one he transparently wrote himself, recommending his analysis. Every post, not just mine, that suggests that it is Leiter, or that Leiter is wrong has been taken down. Interesting display of journalistic spine there.

        • Unemployed_Northeastern

          You can mark any comment you like as spam.

          • OhioDocReviewer

            It’s sheer coincidence that all of the article comments removed were critical of Leiter and the assorted Infilaw shills.

          • MacK

            But getting the comments thread closed?

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              Yeah, that’s weird. On the other hand, it might be because the article was posted ‘prematurely,’ and the comments might go live again on Sept. 1st or whenever. I am a pretty frequent visitor to The Atlantic – have to keep long-term unemployment boredom at bay somehow, and I’ve become convinced that applying to jobs on the Internet has such a fraction of 1% success rate as to not be worth the bother – and the only thread closures I’ve come across is when racist trolls inevitably get ugly on Ta-Nahesi Coates’ articles. But I think that is at TNC’s prerogative. Perhaps Prof Campos asked the Atlantic to shut down commenting for awhile?

              • MacK

                Well, Paul Campos has trailed that the article is coming, the Atlantic – properly but obviously asked Inflaw for fair comment – my guess is that a rude and threatening legal letter was ready to send at open of business. What would be interesting is if they went to Leiter for some of the content, plus the sock-puppet/trolls. They are slimily disingenuous like Leiter’s sock puppets, have a few of his standard talking points and tropes (Leiter has this compulsive ad hominem you are nuts, crazy trope that tells you that he has issues with mental illness thing as do his compulsions (projection for example.)) I mean anyone with a lukewarm IQ would have stopped sock pupetting after the whole Aduren debacle.

                It is interesting to observe what editors have the guts they boast of – not as many as you would think. Harpers is waaay waaay gutsier than the Atlantic.

              • Mia

                If by “posted prematurely” you mean before the author got his logic, reasoning and facts right then I agree.

                • MacK

                  Mia, whatever else, you are obviously connected with Inflaw, you pose as a black man, you may be female, possibly male, everyone here knows you are a fraud. Give up! You have lost that bonus…. and they won’t hire you again, no one is so desperate that they would hire someone who is so obviously counterproductive –

                  Save that fee….you’d better have been paid upfront – because a lawsuit well, hilarity ensues

  • Bob Loblaw Lobs Law Bomb

    A close family member went to Florida Coastal in the mid-aughts. He got a job out of school with a small local firm, and his classmates treated him like a unicorn who had won the lottery.

    • RickScott

      That’s because taking out 200k in debt and being able to land a 50k job working 80 hours per week practicing at a small law firm IS winning the lottery for a Coastal grad. That law school is garbage.

  • Pingback: Good news: There will be fewer lawyers - World leading higher education information and services()

It is main inner container footer text