BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — President Barack Obama told a town hall crowd in Binghamton, New York, Friday that the way law is taught in America should change fundamentally.
As part of his bus tour focused on tough talk for school administrators and pushing the education establishment to help make schooling affordable, the president said it’s time for law schools to drop a year of classroom instruction.
“This is probably controversial to say, but, what the heck, I’m in my second term, so I can say it,” Obama said. “Law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.”
Obama said the third year of law school could be replaced with a paid job like an apprenticeship, which would create a dramatic reduction in costs for students.
“The third year, they’d be better off clerking or practicing in a firm even if they weren’t getting paid that much, but that step alone would reduce the costs for the student,” he said.
Author Page for Paul Campos
Paging Russell Jacoby, historian of contemporary American academia:
Ivy Tech locations throughout the state began the process of cutting back on part-time professors’ hours in response to the federal health care law.
Students who returned to class this week at Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast aren’t likely to notice much of a change, but things will begin to shift soon, officials said.
The cuts apply to all Ivy Tech regions in the state and are in response to a federal law that will require employers to provide health insurance to part-time employees if they work 30 or more hours a week.
Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College, said in a statement that the college has already taken steps to reduce most of the faculty’s credit hours.
Most part-time employees’ hours have been reduced to nine credit hours – a number that Snyder believes will be low enough to meet the federal requirement.
The federal health law requirement goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
At Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast, between 65 percent and 70 percent of credit hours are taught by adjuncts, or part-time lecturers, according to last year’s data.
Most part-time faculty can make about $1,500 to $4,000 teaching a course and don’t usually have health insurance, according to officials.
But soon, steps will have to be taken to ensure that those part-time lecturers aren’t exceeding nine credit hours of teaching a week, said Andrew Welch, executive director of marketing and communications.
Per this insititution’s calculations, teaching 18 credit hours while being paid $9,000 to 24,000 (with no benefits) counts as part-time employment.
On the other hand full professors at Columbia make bank, while teaching two classes per year and conferencing in Tuscany. So as Zombie David Broder reminds us, the truth lies somewhere in the middle . . .
When I ran the numbers for 2013-14 I found a total of seven cases of academic dismissal among the top 14 schools. Five of these were third year students. This fact led me to consider something I should have taken into account originally, which is that some (perhaps most or all) cases of academic dismissal at top schools don’t involve failing to maintain adequate grades, but rather some kind of academic misconduct. So it’s quite possible that top schools now literally, or almost literally, never flunk out an admitted student.
When I first started teaching at CU’s law school 23 years ago, the faculty would get petitions once or twice a year from students who had failed to stay academically eligible (students have a right under the school’s rules to petition for readmission). A few weeks ago it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t seen such a petition in a very long time, so I checked and discovered that we haven’t flunked anybody out in nine years.
This set me off on a little research project, regarding the changing culture of law school and (failing) grades.
There’s a proverbial story about a law school dean telling the entering class, “look to your left and look to your right — next year one of you will not be here.” And in fact it turns out that this story reflected reality not that long ago. In 1966 11,507 people — almost all men — graduated from ABA law schools. Three years earlier 20,776 students had enrolled at those schools, meaning that in the mid-1960s 55.4% of initial law school matriculants eventually graduated (This number is not literally exact, since the 1966 figure includes some graduates of part-time four-year programs who enrolled in 1962, and doesn’t include 1963 matriculants from such programs who graduated the following year, but since these two numbers are almost identical the 55.4% figure is accurate).
So 50 years ago, nearly half the people who entered law school did not graduate. (I don’t have figures on how many of the people who didn’t graduate quit on their own, as opposed to being kicked out.)
Yet just ten years later (1976), the ratio of graduates to matriculants had shot up drastically, to 80.9%. A decade after that it was up to nearly 90%, where it has more or less stayed ever since (It was 88.5% for the class of 2013).
Since some people decide to quit on their own, it’s clear that law schools now end up flunking out, on average, less than one in ten of the people they admit. But “on average” is a deceptive term in this context, as schools have drastically different rates of academic disqualification. Generally speaking, both elite and second-level law schools have almost eliminated the practice of flunking people out. Here are the figures for the so-called T-14 schools, and rest of the top 50 ranked law schools, for the 2011-12 academic year:
Stanford 1 (1 1L)
Virginia 4 (1 1L)
Michigan 1 (0 1Ls)
Berkeley 2 (1 1L)
Chicago 1 (1 1L)
Northwestern 1 (1 1L)
GULC 1 (0 1Ls)
The rest of the top 50:
USC: 2 (2 2Ls)
GW: 4 (0 1Ls)
WUSTL: 1 (1 1L)
BU: 1 (0 1L)
Fordham: 2 (1 1L)
Alabama: 7, including 6 1Ls (3.5% of the class)
Wisconsin: 1 (0 1L)
OSU: 1 (1 1L)
North Carolina: 0
William and Mary: 0
Washington and Lee: 0
George Mason: 3 (1 1L)
Wake Forest: 0
Notre Dame: 0
Illinois: 1 (0 1Ls)
ASU: 1 (1 1L)
Maryland: 1 (1 1L)
Florida: 1 (0 0Ls)
UC Davis: 0
UC Hastings: 2 (0 1Ls)
FSU: 7 (3 1Ls)
SMU: 2 (0 1Ls)
Tulane: 2 (0 1Ls)
Summary: The top 50 law schools academically disqualified an average of exactly one student each in the most recent year for which data are available. These schools had a collective enrollment of around 40,000 students, so for the average student the odds of flunking out were slightly better — or worse, depending on how you think about it — than 1000 to 1.
Interestingly less than half (22) of the students who flunked out were first years (Nationally, nearly three quarters of law school attrition takes places after the first year), with just two schools, Alabama and Florida State, accounting for 40% of the total. 72% of top 50 schools did not flunk out a single first year student.
At the other end of the scale, a number of low-ranked law schools failed out relatively large percentages of their first-year classes:
Western State: 18%
Thomas Jefferson: 15%
San Francisco: 13%
Golden Gate: 13%
Florida Coastal: 12%
However, some law schools with de facto open admission policies flunked out much smaller percentages of their 1Ls:
Thomas Cooley: 5%
New England: 4%
I’ll have more to say about the interpretation of these numbers in another post.
If you were to provide an artistic critique or analysis of contemporary pornography, what would it be?
Well, on the one hand, I am of course delighted that the fanatical puritan feminists of the anti-pornography crusade of the 1980s have been forced to eat dirt! Their arrogant success in pushing Playboy and Penthouse out of the convenience stores (a campaign where they allied with conservative Christian groups) evaporated when the Web went big in the ‘90s. The feminist politburo toppled like a house of cards, thanks to the explosion of freedoms triggered by the Web. Pornography is now beyond anyone’s control. It’s a classic example of ever-controversial unregulated capitalism — the market automatically responding to individual needs and desires.
I continue to support and defend pornography, which I believe exposes the deepest, darkest truths about sexuality. As an industry, pornography also helps to rebalance the modern psyche: middle-class workers are trapped with their tyrannical machines at home and office. Pornography, with its surging animal energies and guiltless display of the body, brings the flame of organic nature into that mineral wasteland.
Having said that, I must confess that I find very little of interest in too-formulaic contemporary pornography — except for the always hot gay-male scenarios that one stumbles on in surfing the Web.
The problem is that explicit sex has become so diffused through the general culture that it’s lost its charge, which once came from the sizzle of transgression. I’m nostalgic for that primal shock quality, which was still there in spades when a juicily plump Madonna was doing her pioneering videos in the ‘80s like “Burnin’ Up,” “Open Your Heart” and “Like a Virgin.” No one could writhe better than Madonna on the prow of a gondola!
The reference to a “juicily plump [!] Madonna . . . on the prow of a gondola” is just a bit too obvious and over the top, but otherwise an outstanding effort from this year’s winner.
OK, he gambled on games he was managing then lied about it for 15 years until he wanted to cash in on a book deal but at least he didn’t TAKE DRUGS
Also, the idea that Rose didn’t have anything to do with “drugs” is fairly implausible.
Silicon Valley mogul opines:
According to the latest 2012 IRS income-tax data, the top 1% of American taxpayers earned 20% of all income and paid 36% of all taxes. The top 5% earned 36% of all income and paid 58% of all taxes. Will even higher taxes help the economy? My experience in Silicon Valley tells me that high and so-called progressive taxes are a major cause of the country’s current economic problems, not the solution.
In fact the quoted numbers are the percentages of personal federal income tax paid by the referenced groups, not “all taxes.” This is a critical distinction, because the vast majority of taxes paid by most Americans are not in the form of personal federal income taxes. When one looks at all taxes, the share paid by the richest 1% falls by nearly half, from 36.7% to 21.6%. Since the top 1% “earned” (very loosely speaking) 21% of all income, this means the U.S. basically doesn’t have a progressive tax system.
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).
Matt Taibbi is shrill:
In a way, America itself is violating the Truth in Lending Act. It’s cheering millions of high school graduates toward college every year, feeding them into the debt grinder under the banner of increased opportunity, when full disclosure would require admitting that there isn’t a hell of a lot waiting for them on the other side, where the middle class has nearly vanished and full employment is going the way of the dodo.
We’re doing the worst thing people can do: lying to our young. Nobody, not even this president, who was swept to victory in large part by the raw enthusiasm of college kids, has the stones to tell the truth: that a lot of them will end up being pawns in a predatory con game designed to extract the equivalent of home-mortgage commitment from 17-year-olds dreaming of impossible careers as nautical archaeologists or orchestra conductors. One former law student I contacted for this story had a nervous breakdown while struggling to pay off six-figure debt. It wasn’t until he tapped into one of the few growth industries open to young Americans that his outlook brightened. “I got my life back on track by working for a marijuana delivery service in Manhattan,” he says. “I’ve had to compromise who I am . . . because I started down a path that I couldn’t turn away from. Student loans aren’t hope. They’re despair.”
The most interesting revelation in this important and disturbing piece is that, by its own estimates, the government ends up collecting close to or even more than the original principal balance on student loans that default. This is because, unlike almost any other form of debt, student loans can almost never be discharged in bankruptcy, and, when it comes to collecting on its debts:
“Student-loan debt collectors have power that would make a mobster envious” is how Sen. Elizabeth Warren put it. Collectors can garnish everything from wages to tax returns to Social Security payments to, yes, disability checks. Debtors can also be barred from the military, lose professional licenses and suffer other consequences no private lender could possibly throw at a borrower.
The upshot of all this is that the government can essentially lend without fear, because its strong-arm collection powers dictate that one way or another, the money will come back. Even a very high default rate may not dissuade the government from continuing to make mountains of credit available to naive young people.
H/t Anna in PDX.
The Thomas Jefferson School of Law will begin a new semester Monday with 12 fewer employees after the administration cut $4.4 million from its budget because of declining enrollment.
Thomas Guernsey, who took over as dean of the school on July 1, said Thursday that some adjunct faculty and other staff members were laid off. Fourteen classes that had low enrollment or were highly specialized were eliminated, he said.
(h/t ichininonsan at JDU. Given the precedents at FCSL and Hamline, the administration’s claim that only adjunct faculty and staff have been laid off warrants considerable skepticism).
How bad are things at TJSL? The school is carrying $133 million (!) in debt, incurred when it paid for a 305,000 square foot eight-story new law building in downtown San Diego, completed two years ago. It’s also dealing with a lawsuit by former students, which has survived a motion to dismiss and is now in full discovery. Here are some stats regarding the school’s most recent entering classes:
Percentage of applicants admitted: 48.27%
Total matrics: 422
Median GPA: 3.00
Median LSAT: 151 (49th percentile)
Transfers in: 0
Transfers out: 48
Academic attrition: 35
Total full-time faculty and administrators: 44
Percentage of applicants admitted: 54.8%
Total matrics: 440
Median GPA: 3.01
Median LSAT: 151
Transfers in: 3
Transfers out: 43
Academic attrition: 41
Total full-time faculty and administrators: 50
Percentage of applicants admitted: 73.3%
Total matrics: 387
Median GPA: 2.93
Median LSAT: 148 (37th percentile)
Transfers in: 9
Transfers out: 49
Academic attrition: 58
Total full-time faculty and administrators: 55
The school’s drastic slashing of already-low admission standards has not forestalled a collapse in this year’s enrollment. First year orientation began this week, with only 250 students in the new entering class.
Given that the school appears to depend on tuition for an astonishing 97% of its operating revenue, that it doesn’t have a parent university to bail it out, and that its only significant asset is a piece of San Diego real estate with a generic eight-story office building on it, the faculty lounge probably shouldn’t be stocked with green bananas.
Since it’s NCAA-bashing day here at LGM, I wanted to mention that the current well-deserved storm of vituperation being visited on the organization seems like a classic tipping point phenomenon. After all, the basics of the situation — big time college football and men’s basketball programs raking in huge dollars; players prohibited from getting any share of the vast revenue streams they create — have been the same for a long, long time.
So why the sudden cultural shift on this, in which lots of elite opinion types are attacking the NCAA in the context of the Manziel business?
My sense is because at some point the combination of dollar amounts and rampant hypocrisy become too much for a critical mass of people who are in a position to have their opinion heard. It’s one thing to pay your football coach $250,000 a year (This was about the highest salary of any college football head coach 30 years ago, and it was considered an outrage at the time by many people, as it was much more than any university president was being paid. It’s the equivalent of about $600,000 in current dollars btw).
It’s another when a head coach with a $15 million guaranteed contract is entitled to only one third as much as one of his peers and there are assistant coaches getting seven figure annual salaries, and luxury suites are being rented out at $85,000 per year (price does not include actual tickets to the games, which must be purchased separately), and the NCAA is making bank on freaking VIDEO GAMES using player names and images and etc etc.
At some point it all becomes too much, and that point is apparently now.
. . . Alan Tomilnson in comments notes that widespread disgust over the Paterno scandal may have played a role, which seems plausible. A friend adds:
When conference expansion first hit in a wave, a lot of it made sense. Penn State to the Big Ten was a logical move, as was FSU to the ACC and the creation of the Big XII. The most recent spate, starting with the ACC adding BC and then continuing with Rutgers/Maryland to the Big Ten, hasn’t made sense on the field. It hasn’t been a result of Team X winning a lot of games and then getting invited into a better conference. Instead, it has been about nothing more than TV markets. Even the Big XII defections were driven by TV. A&M to the SEC, Nebraska to the B1G and Colorado/Utah to the Pac Ten make some regional sense (Mizzou to the SEC does not), but it was all the result of Texas fucking the rest of the conference by starting the Longhorn Network.
Texas no longer plays Texas A&M. Pitt no longer plays West Virginia. Maryland is about to give up its rivalries with UVA, UNC, and Duke. And this is all because of TV. If college football is going to be so obviously driven by revenue maximization and fans are going to lose some of the traditions that made the sport attractive, then why would they oppose players getting paid. Once you drill home the fact that college football is a business, then the employees need to get more than scrip from the company store.
JBJ in comments:
You neglect to mention part of the perfect storm over Johnny Manziel — as sportscaster Jay Bilas made known on Twitter, if you go to the NCAA website and search on Manziel’s name, you find a range of Texas A&M jerseys with Manziel’s name and number, selling for up to $65 per. This came to light simultaneously with Manziel being threatened over the allegation of selling his signature. Even the NCAA couldn’t defend that juxtaposition.
I don’t know if there’s much point in continuing to harp on this, but US News just published another ludicrous law school “ranking,” in a story entitled Ten Law Degrees With the Biggest Return on Investment. The publication calculated this by determining “the 10 schools whose students leave with the least amount of debt relative to their first-year salaries in the private sector.”
One of those ten schools was Rutgers-Newark, which made the list because according to the magazine the “median private sector starting salary” for its 2011 graduates was $117,500.
A little digging into the school’s NALP data (note that until about a year ago it would have been impossible to check US News’s claim, since prior to the pressure created by the law school transparency movement only a handful of schools made their NALP numbers available) reveals that this “$117,500″ figure is the median salary among the 44 (out of 248) 2011 graduates who got private sector jobs and had reported salaries. In other words, the $117,500 or higher number represents the salary of approximately 9% of the graduating class (This is further confirmed by the fact that only 16 graduates got jobs with larger law firms).
The real median starting salary for the class was, at most, $43,437. Note that graduates who were completely unemployed nine months after graduation outnumbered those making the “median” (sic) salary $117,500 or more.
I missed this when it was published last spring. In this corner, we have the deeply embittered holder of a PhD in literature:
Don’t do it. Just don’t. I deeply regret going to graduate school, but not, Ron Rosenbaum, because my doctorate ruined books and made me obnoxious. (Granted, maybe it did: My dissertation involved subjecting the work of Franz Kafka to first-order logic.) No, I now realize graduate school was a terrible idea because the full-time, tenure-track literature professorship is extinct. After four years of trying, I’ve finally gotten it through my thick head that I will not get a job—and if you go to graduate school, neither will you.
So you won’t get a tenure-track job. Why should that stop you? You can cradle your new knowledge close, and just go do something else. Great—are you ready to withstand the open scorn of everyone you know? During graduate school, you will be broken down and reconfigured in the image of the academy. By the time you finish—if you even do—your academic self will be the culmination of your entire self, and thus you will believe, incomprehensibly, that not having a tenure-track job makes you worthless. You will believe this so strongly that when you do not land a job, it will destroy you, and nobody outside of academia will understand why. (Bright side: You will no longer have any friends outside academia.)
On the contrary, you are probably spectacular, due to the manic professionalization of the literary disciplines meant to create Ph.D.s who can compete. Everyone has a book contract, peer-reviewed publications, and stellar teaching evaluations. This was not the case when today’s associate professors were hired in the boom of the late 1990s. But don’t resent them for insisting that it has “always been hard out there”—just let them buy you lunch. You may also be tempted to resent the generation of full professors teetering ever precariously toward retirement, and thus cleaving ever more resolutely to their positions. Leave them alone—they won’t be replaced when they leave anyway; their “tenure lines,” as they are called, will die with them.
No, you will not get a job—not because, like Kafka’s mouse, you went in the “wrong” direction, but because today’s academic job market is a “market” in the sense that one stall selling fiddlehead ferns in the middle of a strip mall is a “farmer’s market.” In the place of actual jobs are adjunct positions: benefit-free, office-free academic servitude in which you will earn $18,000 a year for the rest of your life.
In one sense, it’s all so familiar:
(1) Special snowflake syndrome, aka optimism and confirmation bias. Yes the odds of getting what I want look very bad, but somebody has to get that job in a Tier I department/with the Environmental Defense Fund, right?
(2) Massive credential inflation. People whose resumes when they graduated wouldn’t at this point even get them an interview with a satellite campus of Multi-Directional State/a reasonable shot at a $38,000 per year associate gig with a firm in whatever town in Mississippi makes Jackson look like Paris are now, respectively, the chair of the department at the Tier I university, and the managing partner of a mid-sized firm in Pittsburgh. And they’re deciding whether you are worthy of a callback interview.
(3) Internalized stigmatization. That you’ve been screwed over by structural factors somehow makes almost no difference to your sense of spoiled identity and self-loathing.
On the other hand:
(1) Getting a PhD doesn’t normally leave people in much if any educational debt, right? (I don’t actually have any numbers on this — are there any?)
(2) That getting a doctorate, at least in the humanities, is a very high risk proposition has been a cultural cliche for at least 30 years. Departments weren’t peddling fake employment and salary stats AFAIK (corrections welcome).
(3) Personally I’d much rather “waste” time in graduate school than in law school, given the likely relative intellectual value of the experiences.
On yet a third hand:
(1) Law school only lasts three years, usually.
(2) Schuman claims that 6% of PhDs in her field are going to get tenure track jobs. By contrast maybe half of all current law school students are going to have legal careers of some kind. (But again “of some kind” is a crucial modifier. After all, lots of PhDs get to have academic careers “of some kind.”).