Robert Benchley once remarked that there are two kinds of people in the world: Those who divide everything into two categories and those who don't.
Speaking of which, there really are two categories of people in world in at least one particular sense: those whose perceive the social frame in which they interact as constituting an essentially unquestionable "reality," and those who see that frame as in at least some sense contingent, arbitrary, and open to genuine critique.
This is a difficult idea to explain -- either you get it or you don't -- but I'll toss out an example. The Oxford don C.S. Lewis once described how the man who tutored him when he was a teenager preparing to take the university entrance exams would, on rare occasions, be driven to sarcasm. This would be indicated by a slight distension of his nostrils when he pronounced dicta such as "The Master of Balliol is one of the most important beings in the universe." Now it so happens that to become such an exalted personage as the Master of Balliol it probably is necessary, at some level, to be the kind of person who, in his heart of hearts, is actually offended by that sort of lese-majesty.
For obvious reasons law schools are run by people veritably obsessed with social hierarchy, institutional status, and instilling due deference to the duly constituted authorities (most especially themselves) in their charges. These are not the kind of people who are prone to see their social context as in any sense fundamentally contingent, let alone absurd or corrupt or simply crazy.
Yet law schools have become absurd and corrupt and simply crazy places, as illustrated nicely by the latest student debt figures. The median debt at the 191 law schools who reported data for the class of 2011 was $105,028, up 5.84% from 2010's figure of $99,236. This happens to be just about exactly the percentage by which tuition went up for the national class of 2011 relative to the class of 2010. At this point, law school tuition is so high that tuition increases will be close to 100% debt-financed by the nearly 90% of graduates who take on law school debt.
And keep in mind that these figures, as always, omit other educational debt. As far as I know law schools haven't bothered to collect any data on how much educational debt the students they admit have already incurred, but given that average undergraduate debt among college graduates with debt was estimated at $24,000 three years ago, that undergraduate tuition continues to outstrip inflation by a healthy margin, and that this figure omits the (much higher) debt loads of graduates of (increasingly common) for-profit colleges it's likely that around 150 law schools featured median educational debt for graduates of more than $100,000. That's more than three-quarters of ABA-accredited schools.
(BTW the numbers for the #1 school on the 2011 list, John Marshall-Chicago, are almost surely wrong. For one thing the debt figure is 30% higher than for the class of 2010, and, even more implausibly, only 50% of graduates are listed as having law school debt, when the figure for the class of 2010 was 92.7%. The second-lowest percentage of graduates with debt on the 2011 list is 71%, at Yale. So it's likely that the school that bestows the most valuable law degree has the lowest percentage of indebted students -- a fact that would probably make even John Calvin smile).
Anyway, what keeps this whole thing going isn't merely lack of "transparency" in the most straightforward sense (important as that lack of transparency has been). What keeps it going is something DJM emphasizes in her responses to the granting of the motion to dismiss in the NYLS class action suit. And that's the extent to which law schools are trading on their cultural capital to fool people into thinking that doing something that simply does not make any sense for the vast majority of them to do (going into six figures of educational debt to go to law school) constitutes a reasonable and prudent investment in their futures.
Law schools are supposedly prestigious educational institutions, full of people who explicitly and even more so implicitly represent ourselves every day to our students as serious, honorable people, who can be trusted. When a law school's administration and faculty require students to incur six figures of educational debt to get a law degree, we are representing that this decision makes sense for most if not all of our students. To claim we're not doing this is nothing but shameless rationalization. Why else do we crank out glossy brochures, full of purple words on a grey background? Why else do deans give inspirational welcoming speeches to each incoming class? Why else do we spend tens of millions on buildings that will instantiate through architecture the idea that what is going on here is important and worthwhile and, most of all, economically rational for all those who enter here?
That all this has become a huge, blatant, immoral, and unsustainable illusion is a thought that cannot be thought by people who do not -- who cannot -- question the constitutive beliefs that make up the very basis of the social frame in which they operate. For such people that idea is no more plausible than the idea that the sensory world is an illusion: something which they may admit is theoretically possible, but which, again, they are so constituted as to find quite literally impossible to contemplate as a real possibility.
They took the blue pill, and they're not going to revisit that decision -- to the extent being (becoming?) a certain kind of person can even be thought of as a decision.