Law school applications are at a 30-year low, thanks to increasing tuition, devastating student loan debt, and job prospects in the field drying up.
This month, there were 30,000 applicants to law schools for the fall, which is a 20 percent decrease from last year, and a 38 percent decline from 2013, according to data from the Law School Admission Council. Out of roughly 200 law schools across the nation, only four have seen an increase in applications this year. In 2004, there were 100,000 applicants to law school. This year, there will be approximately 54,000.
This data has caused law school administrators to take a second look at legal education and think about the profession overall.
“We are going through a revolution in law with a time bomb on our admissions books,” said William D. Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University. “Thirty years ago if you were looking to get on the escalator to upward mobility, you went to business or law school. Today, the law school escalator is broken.”
The NY Times reports that some law schools are planning cutbacks, while others are beginning to accept students they would have turned down several years ago. A few have begun to layoff or buyout professors, and some are trying to implement tuition discounts to keep their enrollment numbers up. Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School, who has followed the issue of shrinking enrollment in law school through is blog, predicts that up to 10 schools will close within the next decade, while half to three-quarters will reduce faculty and class size.
“Students are doing the math,” said Michelle J. Anderson, dean of the City University of New York School of Law. “Most law schools are too expensive, the debt coming out is too high and the prospect of attaining a six-figure-income job is limited.”