Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Stop making sense

Update:  I have a piece in Salon on the law school side of the student debt equation.

The New York Times is running a series on student loan debt.  The first two installments appeared Sunday and Monday, along with reactions from various commentators (I recommend this one in particular from Andrew Hacker).

Many of the details from the series will be very familiar to critics of legal education: Schools with runaway cost structures marketing deceptive pitches to naive prospective students and their families; state governments withdrawing support for public higher education; institutions featuring administrative bloat, unnecessarily expensive amenities, and tenured faculty who teach less and less; and as a consequence of all this increasing debt loads for graduates.

All of this is of very direct relevance to people interested in reforming legal education, both because it illustrates the extent to which some of the same dysfunctions that plague laws schools afflict higher education in general, and because it is almost impossible to get a law degree in the United States without first getting an undergraduate degree from a four-year college.  (Interestingly, to this point the series has not mentioned the costs of graduate and professional education).

We have no data yet on what sort of undergraduate debt people who enroll in law school are carrying.  One striking aspect of such debt is that it appears to some extent to vary inversely to the prestige of the institutions where it is acquired.  This interactive map features undergraduate debt levels at hundreds of colleges and universities.  It reveals, for instance, that 77% of 2010 Princeton graduates had no debt at all, while the 23% who acquired undergraduate debt had a mean debt of $5,225 at graduation.  Meanwhile the 74% of 2010 graduates of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey (a public school I have never heard of) who had undergraduate debt had a debt of nearly $31,000.

Overall, undergraduate debt averaged $23,300 nationally in 2010, with ten per cent of 2010 graduates having debt loads of more than $50,000, and three per cent having debt of more than $100,000. (Note these figures apply only to graduates who graduated with debt.  Approximately one third did not).

On the one hand these debt levels are quite modest by comparison to those law school graduates are incurring.  The average law school debt of students graduating this month with such debt -- nearly 90% of all grads will do so -- is going to be about $110,000: a figure that is likely to rise to about $125,000 for the current rising 2L class.  On the other the undergraduate and law school debt figures must be considered cumulatively, since unlike almost every other legal system in the world we make an undergraduate degree a prerequisite to enrolling in law school.  Thus average educational debt for current law students is probably going to be in the range of $150,000 upon graduation.

Because the average interest rate on this debt is going to be around 7.5%, that means current law students will, upon graduation, see their debt loads increase by nearly $1,000 per month, until, in theory, they start paying down the principal they will owe.

How many will acquire jobs that will allow them to start servicing their debt in a timely manner, even on a 25-year repayment schedule? On such an extended schedule they will have monthly debt payments of $1,100 dollars.  Note that such a payment would represent nearly 30% of the after-tax monthly income of someone earning the median salary of $63,000 reported by 2010 law school graduates who had their income reported to NALP nine months after graduation.  But only 41% of graduates had their income reported by their law schools to NALP, which means, of course, that four out of five 2010 law school graduates did not have a reported income of $63,000 or more.

And while it is true there were some graduates who had incomes higher than that who did not have their incomes reported, it is also true that some graduates had incomes reported that were higher than their actual incomes (my auditing of reported income suggests this latter phenomenon is far from rare).  Indeed these two factors probably come close to more or less cancelling each other out. This in turn means that approximately four out of five 2010 law school graduates were not earning even the minimum salary (generously construed) necessary to service what has become the average educational debt necessary to graduate from law school.

In other words, law school no longer makes financial sense for most people who go to law school.


  1. Yes, law skool makes no financial sense for most people.

    How long is it before UNDERGRADUATE skool makes no sense for most people to attend?

    Case in point...A friend's daughter is going to "Big State U". It is certainly a good school, and carries a good reputation. The young lass is bright too. HOWEVER, she has no scholarships. The only financial aid is "student loans" that her parents MUST co-sign. First year tuition? about $35k. I almost gagged when I heard this.

    I told my friends that they just bet their retirement. This went over like a lead balloon.

    They said I was the foolish one for this was "Big State U" and edukation is worth it!

    How is it worth $150k+ to get an UNDERGRAD education?

    It is rapidly coming to a point where even IF your student gets their desired job outcome the numbers won't work because of the debt carried!

  2. A colleague asked about co-signing his daughters 40K per year student loans for undergrad. This guy is a boomer lawyer. I asked him how he was going to pay back 200K when she doesn't get a job that pays more than her living expenses. It was as though he didn't think of it in that manner before I mentioned it.

    This isn't going to end well.

    Best thing to do is prepare for what comes after this whole house of card collapses.

  3. Thank god. I was dying yesterday without a new post.

  4. For whatever reason, a large majority of lawyers seem to be mathematically challenged. This whole system survives because of the inability or unwillingness of prospective lawyers to process numbers.

  5. @7:37 - I was shocked at how few people could read a balance sheet when my corporations professor started talking about basics like assets, liabilities, and.... insolvency. It was mostly a room full of deer in the headlights.

    Why is it that so many lawyers have an undergrad degree in political science? I even had one classmate whose undergrad was in *dance*.

  6. Increasingly, law school is a vanity degree.

    I hereby promise that if you convince little John or Jane not to go to law school, I will substitute trite praise, without judgement, in their chosen pursuit to make you more secure as a parent. For example, "ooh, a mortgage servicer" or "ooh, a real estate manager," or "ooh, a brand manager."

    The insecurity of boomer parents leads them to push John and Jane to be "ooh, a lawyer." This completely ignores the consequences wrought on Johnny or Janey.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Ted Seto says this is mindless mob mentality. The smart move is to borrow $200,000 to attend Loyola Law School.

    As they say, if you can keep your head while others are losing theirs, you will inherit the world.

  9. Aren't there like ten different Loyola law schools?

  10. There is a Richard Stockton Service Area on the Jersey Turnpike. Perhaps they have opened a college there.

  11. Talking Heads Lawprof? What happened to the whole mid-60's Simon & Garfunkle vibe?

  12. Undergrad is expensive, law school is expensive, and so are private schools whether it be elementary, middle, or high school. Why do people choose to go to expensive private schools between K-12th grade when there are public schools available for free?

  13. http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2009/11/13/mamas-dont-let-your-babies-grow-up-to-be-lawyers/

    "The document comes in the form of an academic paper, written by a law prof at Vanderbilt named Herwig Schlunk entitled, yes: ‘Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Lawyers.’ Schlunk’s paper attempts to answer the following question:

    Is a law degree a good investment?

    The paper isn’t exactly what we’d consider a fun read, packed as it is with numbers and nearly unreadable sentences like this: “Thus, perhaps the best way to analogize the relevant income stream is as a non-diversifiable equity income stream; like any other equity income stream, this stream represents the excess of all generated income over that amount of income required to repay all debts; here the “debts” soak up the entirety of the “hurdle compensation” set forth in the last table.”

    Still, with a little work, the paper may well pay dividends. Schlunk uses three prototypical students (the “Also Ran,” the “Solid Performer” and the “Hot Prospect”), and concludes that each needs to earn a pretty penny pretty much upon graduation to pull down the kind of money that will ultimately justify the cost of a private-school three-year law degree."

    Law school is a poor investment for MOST students. In terms of brutal reality, this applies to the vast majority of law students.

  14. "Aren't there like ten different Loyola law schools?"

    Even better. Borrow $2 million and get a degree from each one.

  15. @8:35 -- lots of reasons: They may want their children to go to a religiously based school. The schools in their area may not be very good, that is challenging in terms of the curriculum and/or the students their child will be competing against. They may prefer a place where if there are kids who are acting out (beating people up, bullying) the trouble makers can be asked to leave. There is less worry about programs or departments disappearing because of budget cuts. There are others.

  16. Gen Y dislikes numbers. Balance sheets are seen as gross, old school, and boring. Numbers are icky. They are very visual and tech saavy, though. I noticed they are very conversant and know their way around pseudo-philosophy, cultural analysis, and the power of myths and fairy tales.

    For my Gen Y nieces and nephews who are interested in law school, I usually just pull up the painting "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" by Hans Bol on my IPad, reminding them of the story of the story of Icarus, who attempted to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. He ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned.

  17. Most succinct argument yet...or at least a great overview. Thanks.

    Doubt they want you to spend your sabbatical money on this.

  18. IMO, a formal four-year undergraduate education ceased being useful to 80% of students a decade ago at the least. Before someone goes boomer-beserk on me, yes, there are obviously great normative benefits to an educated society.

    But as a society, what sense does the current system make? Everyone in the 80s told their kids to go to college so they'd make $$$, so then college became a prerequisite for jobs that don't require it, the demand for college artificially sky-rocketed, and the students were left on the wrong side of an education arms race.

    We're now badly overproduced in JDs, MBAs, PhDs, and a number of other graduate degrees. Meanwhile, the individuals who choose these paths (and, of course, the liberal arts) have had prime earning years ripped away from them when they should have been getting married, building a family, getting involved long-term in a community, and - most important and often ignored - saving for the future.

    And for what purpose? In the overwhelming majority of cases, the education adds no training that couldn't have been acquired at a community college or on the job in a much more efficient manner. The only thing our education system does, then, is delay adulthood, saddle on unnecessary debt, and enrich the educational sphere.

    It's not like the educated actually enrich society, anyway. Very, very few people with a sociology degree from Pittsburgh State or an English degree from Loyola-Marymount use that degree to aid their own communities with said knowledge. Usually, they're strongly discouraged from trying even when they have said knowledge. And because people still tie education and money together, if you have a master's and you're waiting tables at the local diner, people will think you're a feckless idiot.

  19. Even if one can figure out a way to handle the tuition costs, it's still a mess. Without getting too deep into it, I was able to do so. There are, of course, plenty of other costs to consider and I still got murdered ten ways to Sunday (housing, transportation, opportunity costs, etc.). I am in a far worse financial position now that I was four years ago. It pains me to actually put pen to paper and write down numbers. It is a grim picture. I graduated a year ago. I "volunteer" currently. I have made, no joke, about five grand in the previous twelve months. I strongly caution anyone that will listen about my experience thus far. It may change for the better. Honestly, I don't know how much worse it could be.

  20. 9:58 you hit it on the head. The whole education system is a huge scam. Some of the best System Engineers I have worked with did not go to College, but picked up the knowledge and experience along the way.

  21. 9:58 had a good comment. College was such a waste of time. If anything it was a step backwards. At least in highschool I was used to getting up at a decent hour and doing 8 hours of work.

    All that shit went right out the window two weeks into my first semester.

  22. Honestly, I don't know how much worse it could be.

    Edgar: And worse I may be yet: the worst is not
    So long as we can say 'This is the worst.'

    King Lear, Act 4 scene 1.

    Count your blessings, few as they may be.

  23. Understanding law school as an investment cannot be done without considering a second question - what would a law school candidate earn without going to law school. One way to look at this is that in general, people with higher IQs have higher earnings. I have taken some rough data from charts on LSAT IQ and IQ income correlation to try to show what a particular LSAT score might equate to in terms of income for a 40 year old. There is a bit of a problem here because lawyers aged in their 40s would typically have used the old LSAT scores 10-48 rather than the new 120-180 scale. Still law school was IMHO still competitive then. In any event, an IQ that puts someone in the upper 10% of the population typically translates into an income over $160k for a 40+ white male. This is a mere 149 LSAT score. So you have to ask, at more typical LSAT scores of 160+ what 5-10 years down the road would such a college graduate be earning as compared with that same person if he/she went to law school - that is to say, depending on the scale someone in the upper 3% or so for intelligence. I'd venture to suggest that the income outcomes are little better for going to law school, and possible worse

    LSAT -- IQ -- Income 40-50
    White male

    125 -- 101 $90,000
    129 -- 104 $100,000
    133 -- 108 $108,000
    140 -- 113 $125,000
    149 -- 120 $160,0000
    150 -- 121
    151 -- 122
    152 -- 123
    153 -- 124
    154 -- 125
    155 -- 126
    156 -- 126
    157 -- 127
    158 -- 128
    159 -- 129
    160 -- 130
    161 -- 130
    162 -- 131
    163 -- 132 upper 2% (Mensa criteria)
    164 -- 133
    165 -- 133
    166 -- 134
    167 -- 135
    168 -- 136
    169 -- 137
    170 -- 138
    171 -- 138
    172 -- 139
    173 -- 140 Genius/Near Genius
    174 -- 141
    175 -- 142
    176 -- 143
    177 -- 143
    178 -- 144
    179 -- 145
    180 -- 146

  24. Please... that is meaningless, faux science.

  25. @10:24
    I got a 90th percentile on the old test (mid-80s), graduated mid-class from a then T20. I've never made six figures in my entire career. I call BS on the correlation.

  26. @10:33

    I am not claiming that the IQ numbers are valid - I have a big issue with IQ ever since the Mensa guys got into a fight with me in High School over a dumb question on their test.

    However, there is some validity to the IQ equating with income (but not wealth) and the IQ to LSAT correlation (if weak.)

    My bottom line point is that a lot of JDs would have been just as well off without getting that JD.

  27. All of you are a bunch of lazy whiners.

    Pay your debts and own up to your obligations!

    You signed the contract and now want to weasel out of it.

    Grow up! No one forced you to take out student loans. You know the risks and are sophisticated consumers.

    No one is going to hand you anything in this world.

    So to all of you: Shut up and go to work.

  28. My relative the cop at his 40th birthday party had investment property, new car, side business, stock portfolio, retirement with benefits on the horizon, and ability to pay maintenance and child support - and live the good life. All this with several weeks at the police academy.

    My life at 40 is $160k+ of student debt, no kids (I've been responsible), no benefits, no retirement possibly ever, and a struggling solo practice. I love that I have an excellent liberal arts undergrad and feel at home with any company, no matter how highly educated. But no pot to p*** in. I did make $100k for a few years it is was nice (but not even great with the loans!)

    I would not be happy with a "lesser" career but those childhood test scores mainly in the upper 90-99th percentiles sure don't put money in your pocket automatically. But it USED to be that the highest IQ folks in a learned profession earned LESS, because they went into the academy. Not so with us, huh?

  29. 10:33 here. That may be true, but it would take more work and research to prove that than what you just posted. Conjectures are perfectly fine, of course. But attaching numbers to stuff doesn't make them any more "real".

  30. "In any event, an IQ that puts someone in the upper 10% of the population typically translates into an income over $160k for a 40+ white male."

    Huh? 160k is 98th percentile for income

  31. Step 1: Drop out of high school.

    Step 2: Get GED.

    Step 3: Do 2 years of community college.

    Step 4: Apply all your effort to get a politically protected blue collar job, like a cop, rather than applying said effort to becoming a professional of any kind.

    If step 4 does not work out, then and only then, should you try to become a professional. Ofcourse, none of this applies if you come from money.

    Good luck and Godspeed.

  32. Great article on Salon, LawProf! Way to preach the truth.


  33. @11:26 -

    I do have doubts about the data (hell I found it after a brief search on the interpipe - although that is for the subset of white men aged 40-50 - which is about 2% (but would be the majority of law graduates from top tier schools in the 80s-early 90s.) The point I am trying to make is that if you are going to consider the cost of law school, you need to recognise that for the more selective law schools - they are taking 4 year college graduates who graduated in 4 or less years, with high GPAs and an LSAT score that indicates that they are not stupid. Most of these law students would have been high earners without law school - maybe earning the same or more without a JD

  34. I have no debt (did not go to law school but find the current situation we're in sad yet fascinating), but I think it's pretty "el oh el" to think we live in a society where we think 18-20 year olds are mature enough to make decisions which result in them racking up $100k+ in debt yet they aren't responsible enough to drink.

    My parents paid for my college education and I got a real major rather than a useless one, but I can imagine myself in someone else's shoes who isn't very smart and is being told by their parents "go to college, it's good debt!" and getting a useless degree. How are 18-20 year olds really going to know enough to make such a huge decision which impacts the rest of their life? I could brainwash my son or daughter to believe almost anything up until they're 18, and "college is good debt, go to college even if you're not that smart" wouldn't be too tough of a sell.

  35. All of this depends on what school you go to and how well you do there.

  36. Good advice 11:36. My cousin is a state prison guard. No college, just a couple years of trade school. He lives in a nicer house and drives a nicer car than me (I'm an attorney). And he's eligible for a 50% pension (guaranteed by the taxpayers and padded by overtime) after only 20 years on the job. Not too shabby.

  37. lol, excellent pwnage of Linda Greene and her priceless nonsense.

  38. LawProf -

    That Salon piece is written with surgical precision. Very well done, you distilled a complex problem down to its essence and that will hopefully resonate with an audience that's not as familiar with the problem as those of us who religiously read this blog. Please keep up the great work!

  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. JD Painter, have you tried to negotiate a settlement with your student loans?

  41. JD Painter, why not just move to another country and start over?

  42. Law Prof:

    Excellent piece in Salon. The link to Marie Antoinette's--uh, that is, Linda Greene's outrageous little NYTimes essay from last fall on the priceless value of a legal education was a particularly deft touch. She SO deserved the ridicule.

  43. Unlike Credit Card Debt, settlements are not offered for student loans.

    Unlike gambling debt, bankruptcy is not possible for Student Loan debt either.

    I spoke with two really dismissive bankruptcy lawyers in the past who, )if I were not on the phone and instead physically present) would have grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and bounced me onto the curb.

    Yes I can try to move to New Zeland as a "skilled migrant" before age fifty.

    Or somewhere else on the globe.

    But in the big picture, the very premise of having to flee the USA because of having completed a JD program seems terribly wrong.

    Again, and to all the naysayers and critics, I am not so much about the LS scam as I am about SL debt. But I contrribute what I can about my miserable law school experience, which may not be all that unique.

    As I was going through a very upsetting divorce I defaulted and went through collections and had 40K, or rather 18.25% tacken on to my principal balance in "collection costs" making my loan go from 220K to 260K in one fell swoop.

    And Goddammit why don't all the freakin lawyers at all levels that read this blog care about the usury and the collection agency wild fees Re student loan debt?

    It is all hopeless.

    Thw whole system is a tangled web that cannot be untangled and that only a process of many years will change.

  44. Read this:


  45. "We're now badly overproduced in JDs, MBAs, PhDs, and a number of other graduate degrees."

    Not accurate. We're badly overproducing worthless postgrad degrees, PhDs in social sciences etc. We're not overproducing valuable and rigorous math and hard science PhDs with something to contribute to society.

  46. “We know the model is not sustainable,” said Lawrence T. Lesick, vice president for enrollment management at Ohio Northern University. “Schools are going to have to show the value proposition. Those that don’t aren’t going to be around.”

    From the second NYT article

  47. Mr. Gee’s compensation package this year, moreover, is worth about $2 million, and The Chronicle of Higher Education has called him the highest-paid public university president. The Dayton Daily News recently reported that Mr. Gee had billed Ohio State for $550,000 in travel in the last two years.

  48. 5:23:

    Bullshit. There is no real safe major. The STEM majors, STEM PhDs included, are hurting just like everyone else.

    There are not enough jobs to go around. We are producing too many graduates for too few jobs in every profession. Law just happens to be one of the worst. If you don't believe, me ASK someone in these fields. Not hard to look people up.

    JD Painter: Hang on, there will be forgiveness on these loans. The fucked up system cannot sustain itself...the system needs purchasers of gods. As of today, I am going to start using all my deferment and forbearance until it all run out. No sense in making the full payment on something that will be forgiven.

  49. Editing: purchasers of goods
    Comma after "me"

  50. Campos

    You are doing a great job, and its clear that the issue is beginning to reach mainstream media outlets. One thing I will say, is that if you can get more appearances on television, such as you did with CBS, it will be very beneficial.

    Because it is with television that you can reach more Baby Boomers that are instrumental in the decisions of their children. The older generation watches television for news more than using the internet.

    Try to get onto CNN/Fox/MSNBC if possible (I know, I know - easier said than done)

  51. At a ceremony to honor a $100 million donation from Leslie Wexner, the clothing magnate and Ohio State graduate, Mr. Gee choked back tears.

    “Every time I get a lot of money I cry,” Mr. Gee told the crowd. “And I got a lot of tears left.”

    -sorry I couldn't help but post another quote from NYT. Wow. Wow.

  52. Getting onto FOX will be impossible for Campos.

    The de facto but true political leaders of the Republican party who are all on Fox, such as Hannity, Limbaugh, and even Glenn Beck, never even finished College, nor cared to finish even after doing well in life for many years.

    Hannity even had Ted Nugent (high school education) sing at one of Hannity's freedom concerts.

    The Conservatives and Republicans are anti higher education and all about lending and profit.

    Virginia Foxx (no relation to the channel) even strongly condemned student loan debtors.

    No, Fox is a dead end in terms of popular politics which, unfortunately sways elections.

  53. The case of Virginia Foxx is interesting as she sits on the Committee of Education, and the Subcommittee of Higher Education and Workforce Training. I think she might be involved in a committee specifically looking at student loans, if its not one of the above two

    And per records, she has received "campaign funds" from Higher Education Loan companies

    Any wonder why she condemns student loan debtors?

  54. @ 5:23. We've actually been OVER-producing math and hard-science PhDs for years now. Source: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110420/full/472276a.html?success=true
    I've heard that Europe has been struggling with a PhD glut since the 1970s. What would we accomplish by having even more scientists? We don't accomplish much even with the ones we have already.

  55. @6:04,

    If the situation at Fox is as you describe, it's hard to see why they wouldn't want to go after academia, which has long tilted left.

    In particular, law school would seem to be a favorite target, as the legal profession is very intertwined with the Democrats. When was the last time that the Democratic ticket didn't have BOTH presidential and vice-presidential candidates that went to law school? Jimmy Carter in 80?

  56. Dear 6:04 pm:

    Just a couple of facts to try to fit into your worldview: first, your list of "de facto but true political leaders of the Republican party who are all on Fox" is two-thirds incorrect, since Limbaugh and Beck don't appear on Fox. Also, common nouns like "college" and "conservatives" don't need to be capitalized; in contrast, when writing "Republican party," you _should_ capitalize "Party," since it is part of a proper noun.


    -- Another education-hating conservative

  57. In my opinion, Hannity and Limbaugh and Beck are extremely talented political speakers, with rare gifts, and very formidable foes of any kind of potential plans that will favor the consumer over student loan debt.

    They have the national audience, and, let's face it, on this blog, and compared to them we are all a bunch of hacks and elite and overeducatred grass roots, minority "Expressives"

    With no effect.

  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

  59. I think you're approaching this from the wrong perspective, 6:57 -- although Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck are likely to oppose any attempt to restore the dischargeability of educational debt in bankruptcy, they'll strongly support efforts to get the federal government out of the education-financing business.

    Everybody hates a scam, except the scam artist. Here, "everybody" includes people from across the political spectrum, while the scam artists primarily live at two extremes: the educrats are overwhelmingly on the left, and the banksters are overwhelmingly on the right. As the song says, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.....

  60. Let's carry the Republican Party into the future with all of it's (God help us) de facto and conservative and "uneducated" education hating leaders such as Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, and Ted Nugent into the future.

    As a matter of fact, why not do away with higher education altogether?

    I think the extraordinarily intelligent College dropuout Rush Limbagh would approve.

  61. Just a stupid guy that listens to the radio, and has learned which buttons to press.

    The art of talk radio is in the boiling down into simplistic language.

    I think a lot of academics ought to do so too.

    If they ever did, they would kick the asses of Beck and company into oh, mid century at least.

  62. JD Painter, your brush is too broad. Here's Rush, from last October, on higher education:

    Let me make something very clear: I understand, well-rounded person and all of that. My only point is some people aren't cut out for it. Education has to be structured, like I said. You have 200 people in the classroom; you can't tailor it to every individual in that [way]. There has to be a curriculum. It has to be based on what the educators think is the best way to create a, quote, unquote, 'educated person.' I understand all that. It just wasn't for me. It is expensive, but it just wasn't for me. I am not... I don't want anybody to misunderstand here. I am not telling you to punt college. I'm not telling you that's the route that you should take. But I do understand that it is an institution controlled by the left, and I don't trust 'em.

  63. Why doesn't Ann Coulter comment on this blog?

    Her not doing so seems kind of slipshod and/or uncaring when she ought to do so.

    No one is going to bite her, and she has, at the very least, gone to College.

  64. What is: because Ann is as caring and empathetic as a toilet seat? Seriously, she's one percent, why would she care if a bunch of law students can pay their loans since she's got hers.

    The law school scam does not fit easily into the liberal / conservative paradigm since it existed under both Bush II and Obama, and arguably even before them.

    The rise of for profit colleges (such as the University of Phoenix) has also produced lobbists who tell Republicans not to limit federal aid regardless of employment outcomes since such aid benefits what can best be called educational corporations.

    There are easier political issues to hunt, which can be explained in sound bites so conservatives have left this issue alone.

  65. Sorry to nitpick, but your statement that "approximately four out of five 2010 law school graduates were not earning even the minimum salary (generously construed) necessary to service what has become the average educational debt necessary to graduate from law school" may be misleading. It seems to imply that law school is completely unaffordable for 80% of graduates. People don't have "average" debt amounts or get "average" jobs. There are probably also a lot of familial resources in hiding, e.g., grandparents and uncles with funds. A lot of boomers have money sitting around in the form of housing and stock that is worth a lot more than when they bought it in the 80s and 90s. I'm guessing the number of people for whom law school is completely unaffordable (i.e., they will ultimately default on their debt) is probably over 50% now (and the number of people for whom law school is a bad decision is probably well above that), but probably no where close to 80%. Your comment about good schools producing people with less debt is very perceptives. There are a fair amount of "haves" that will do just fine, but also plenty of "have nots" who can't even begin to pay back their huge debts. For reference, I say this as someone who had lower middle class parents with a combined income of less than 50K, but was able to graduate from an Ivy undergrad with less than 10K in debt and HYS with less than 70K in debt within the last decade, thanks to living modestly in school, generous financial aid, a little help from relatives and a good summer internship my 2L summer. There may be fewer folks like me now that college and law school costs have zoomed up (and continue to do so), while job prospects have cratered, but there are still plenty of people with (relatively) rich parents who can afford a 200K law school bill...

  66. @ 7:15am

    "How long is it before UNDERGRADUATE school makes no sense for most people to attend?"


  67. That's right!. Everybody in America, stay away from college while the rest of the world sends its young people. Oh, I know-- they can come here and work. All young Americans can become police officers and corrections guards. All we have to do is keep the prison industrial complex going--in part, with many of the people who did not go to college--and it will all be okay.

  68. JD Painter and 8:22. The people who have raised tuition 3X on an inflation adjusted basis in the last 25 years are not conservative. Over 90 plus percent of them identify themselves as progressive or liberal, and a good many of them are on the hard left. They view themselves as a deserving elite, i.e., gatekeepers of goodness and light, and of course, it is therefore acceptable for students to go into life altering debt to sustain their status as a mandarin class. Of course, this is met by lots of denial by administrators and faculty, who after all think that higher education ought to be free, so long as their hefty salaries and lifestyle can be maintained.

    Two points.

    First, the Government is the huge culprit here. By using naive students as intermediaries, the schools are able to raise their prices with unsecured loan proceeds obtained with scarcely any underwriting or analysis of likelihood of payment.

    Second, I am no fan of for profit schools, simply because I don't think most of them offer a good value in terms of the education received (I would put a top flight trade school such as Wyotech in a different light, but most don't obtain a reasonable price value relationship or offer degrees which are valued in the private sector). But really, are the traditional not for profit schools much better? I think most are not. Look at a school that is a football team with a university attached - Boise State. Are they really superior to Kaplan, et. al. when they graduate 4% of their students in four years? No. Although simplistic, we have to limit the student loan offerings available to students, as tough as that sounds. Only then can prices decrease and cushy administrations be slimmed down. And while I agree Republicans by and large may be different, the current state of affairs has come about in institutions controlled and dominated by liberals and the left. It is they who are causing direct harm to students.

  69. @3.24 - trans. "how soon is now"

    you totally missed the opportunity to ref. a Smiths song in a thread with a Talking Heads title.

  70. "How long is it before UNDERGRADUATE school makes no sense for most people to attend?"

    Unless you get really creative… live with parents past 18 (many parents DO NOT want their kids in the house past 18; especially if they moved out when they were young). Then find the right school to be able to work part or full time (better be in a city- and it makes it all that much harder of an adjustment if you didn’t grow up in a city). …too many schools are located in the middle of nowhere or in over saturated college towns where even the most basic jobs are taken.

    And half the problem with this debt, like law school, is that there are FEW entry level jobs so graduates must wrestle with the debt for years (more lost opportunity costs) before (if) they can get their foot in the door somewhere.

  71. The problem is not too much government, but too little. If the government is going to foot the bill, the government should also be controlling how the money is spent, instead of just writing checks.

    It's really hard to imagine the worst central planner in the former Soviet Union creating twice as many lawyers than the economy could absorb as part of a five year plan. What we have here is a catastrophic failure of right wing free market theory. After all, the whole student loan debacle is the brain child of right wingers like Milton Friedman.

    So now these right wingers want to eliminate student loans in addition to eliminating public support for higher education. Instead, in their ideal world, only the wealthy would be able to attend college, while the great masses would remain uneducated. In their view, professions like law should be the exclusive domain of the one percent.

    A better solution would be the European model of merit selection. Seats in the university would be restricted by tough entrance examinations -- like super LSATs, and the state offers free tuition at State Universities for the high scores. Certainly the state should not pay for more degrees than the economy can absorb.

    And, perhaps, the state should condition the free tuition on the performance of military or other public service? Today's students are forced to work for big law, and do the bidding of the wealthy to pay off their loans. We all know that a big law job is all about getting more for those who already have too much. Would it not make more sense to have students actually do something worthwhile to pay for their education?


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