GW attempted to lower this to $10 beginning in December 2012 as an "incentive" to malingerers who were supposedly turning down paid work because they preferred to stay in temporary volunteer positions in exchange for the $15 per hour stipend. This action raised enough of an outcry that in less than 24 hours the school dropped the prospective change to the program.
These programs have two purposes. The benign one is to give otherwise unemployed graduates some minimal financial support and a bit of resume burnishing while they look for jobs (Ideally of course a volunteer position may turn into paid work, although the increasingly stiff competition for scarce non-profit work, which makes those who get it eligible for PSLF's ten-year loan forgiveness, makes this an unlikely outcome).
The less benign purpose, naturally, is that it allows schools to massage the employment stats they report to NALP and the ABA (Note that a graduate who stays in a program of this sort for a full year is counted as someone employed in a full-time long-term position requiring bar admission. In what seems to me a mistake, LST is currently counting such positions as part of its core employment rate.).
At the time that GW's attempted revision of its program came to light, I speculated that the number of 2012 graduates enrolled in it must be quite large, given the school's eagerness to start saving five dollars per hour in December. Yesterday those GW graduates currently enrolled in the program -- this group does not include graduates who were enrolled in the program and subsequently got jobs -- received an email reminding them to turn in their timesheets. Through an oversight whoever sent the email failed to bcc the addresses of the recipients, meaning that it was possible for everyone who got the email to see who else is currently enrolled in the program.
It turns out that, as of yesterday, 114 people -- 21% of the total graduating class -- were enrolled. My source remarks that "some of the email addresses that I recognize were those of quite good students: honors (maybe even top 15%, if my memory of the commencement handouts serves me right) and law review."
A few notes:
(1) This number does not include unemployed GW graduates who either refused to enroll in the program or were unable to find volunteer positions that made them eligible for the stipend (My source does not know how many graduates, if any, are in either category, but it seems conservative to estimate that, as of nearly five months after graduation, fully a quarter of the graduating class of the nation's 20th ranked law school remains essentially unemployed).
(2) It will be interesting to see how this number changes between today and February 15th (the nine-month NALP reporting deadline). In February 2011 GW reported 26 graduates were being paid by the school, while this past February the reported number to NALP was 81. Schools with similar programs report radically different results in this regard. For example, last year Michigan was employing 75 of its 2011 graduates in the fall, but only eight were still employed by the school as of this February (54 had gotten jobs of some sort while 13 others were neither employed by the school nor anyone else). By contrast, all 38 of Columbia's 2011 grads who were employed by the school post-graduation were still employed by the school in February, and indeed 34 of the 38 were still employed by the school in May.
(3) George Washington took in 97 transfer students in the fall of 2010, and 104 in the fall of 2011.
All of the above information emphasizes the need for longer-term employment data than that which schools currently collect per NALP and ABA requirements, and which is gradually being extracted from them for public consumption. These sorts of post-graduate employment programs are of course beneficial in a short-term way to graduates, but they, along with other forms of statistical legerdemain, allow schools to treat un- and underemployed new graduates as the equivalent of toxic assets on a corporation's balance sheet, to be unloaded as quickly and expeditiously as possible. (BTW it's important to emphasize that corporations and law schools that behave in this way are merely behaving in exactly the way one would predict they would behave, given the rules of the economic and professional games which the corporations and schools are structurally required to play. Thus rather than focusing on condemning individual institutional actors for their behavior, it's more useful to focus on changing the structural rules of those games).
What we really need to know is, where will these 114 people (and the 20,000-25,000 or so similarly precariously positioned graduates of the national law school class of 2012) be two and three years from now, when no one -- as of now -- will be paying any further attention to the state of their putative legal careers?