A Law School Acts to Fix a ‘Broken’ System


For Brooklyn Law School, the tuition was just too high.

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On Thursday, the well-regarded private law school announced a 15% tuition cut, according to the school’s dean. The move comes on the heels of a growing student debt crisis in this country that has sparked mounting concern.

“We decided to do this for two reasons,” says Nicholas Allard, dean of Brooklyn Law School. “We asked ourselves: Who can afford law school these days? And who can afford to retain a lawyer? And our answer to both questions was that not many can [afford this]….It’s clear that the law school system is broken.”

It’s true that law school has become increasingly expensive.

According to the watchdog group Law School Transparency, private law school is 2.5 times as expensive as it was in 1985, and this is after adjusting for inflation. In 1985, the average private school tuition was $7,526 (which is $15,733 in 2011 dollars); by 2011, it had ballooned to an average tuition of $39,184, the research says.

“We asked ourselves: Who can afford law school these days? And who can afford to retain a lawyer? And our answer to both questions was that not many can...."

Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard

Brooklyn Law’s total tuition is going from $152,575 to $129,688, starting in the 2015-2016 school year. Tuition there is based on how many credits a student takes in a year, so if a student takes about the same number of credits each year and graduates in three years, tuition will go from roughly $51,000 a year to an estimated $43,000 a year.

Heather Jarvis, a student loan expert and a graduate of Duke Law School, commends Brooklyn Law School for making a cut in tuition.

“It’s excellent, and I encourage more law schools to reduce their tuition,” says Jarvis. “Law school is too expensive and it’s significant that law school applications have been down recently. I think part of that is due to people being more sensitive to the price.”

Like most law schools, applications to Brooklyn Law took a hit after the recession. According to the dean, from 2009 to 2014, there has been a 30% decline in applications. He said while the school is still getting high-quality students applying and being accepted, it wants to help afford more people the opportunity.

“We are doing this because we want to support our students,” says Allard. “My personal view is that [student debt] is a simmering problem and it was only tolerable when things were in the flush, and the severe economic downturn made the ill-conceived, broken and unjust business model unsustainable.”

Other law schools, including Roger Williams University of Law in Rhode Island and Penn State University, have also recently reduced their tuitions, and Jarvis says these are all steps in the right direction.

“The poor and middle class could really benefit from good legal aid,” says Jarvis. “It’s unfortunate that many have the expense of student debt and can’t afford to charge a lower rate. So many regular people are being priced out of the justice system."

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