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167 Law Schools See A Decline In Applicants

The Law School Admission Council recently released a report explaining that 167 law schools have seen a decline in applicants in 2012. That comes as no surprise given the legal job market and the New York Times’ reporting last year on some of the worst aspects of they system.

Law Professor Brian Tamanaha over at Balkninzation breaks down the numbers. He explains:

The raw number of applicants this year will likely be between 66,000 and 67,000. Not since 1986-1987 have law schools seen total applicant numbers this low. Student quality will suffer as a result. For the purposes of quality, what matters is the excess of applicants over enrolled. This year law schools will enroll about 65% of the people who apply–a high percentage not seen since the mid-late 1980s. (Eight years ago only 50% of applicants were enrolled.) The decline in student quality will be even greater if the aggregate enrollment reduction does not go as low as 43,000. (It is quite possible that law schools collectively will not reduce enrollment in the same proportion as last year to match the current reduction in applications because the revenue loss will be too much for many individual schools to bear in two successive years.)

Professor Tamanaha says that the scary news is that some schools will face financial difficulty and ultimately have to close their doors. But he also offers good news: “Law students should get higher scholarship offers deeper into the class. After going up for decades, we may finally witness a decline in real tuition (the scholarship discounted rate).”

Stay tuned for what economists call a “market correction.”

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