Jobs? Loan Repayment Guarantee? Training?
Over the past two years I’ve been watching what law schools are doing to offset the negative publicity they were getting from grads who were suing them for over-promising what they could expect to earn after they graduated.
Once identified as an ideal “professional” career and fueled by TV shows, from L.A. Law, Boston Legal, Law and Order, to the more recent Harry, the allure of earning a law degree has been tarnished by the news stories of the enormous additional cost, high number of industry layoffs, reduced hiring in the legal industry, and the frequent stories about grads suing their colleges. The real story is in the numbers. The industry has lost over 50,000 law-related jobs in the past five years but produces 40,000 new attorneys each year!
This constant bad press has resulted in a stunning fall in the number of people willing to pay between $75,000 to $125,000 for a law degree. As a result the number of applicants for law school has fallen from a peak of 100,000 in 2004 to an expected 54,000 in 2013. Less people are interested in joining an elite group of 1,200,000 working attorneys! That’s probably good news for anyone that still wants to go to law school because there will be less competition for the seats available.
Law schools do the right thing!
I was surprised then to see that law schools did the right thing and decided to step up to the plate and offer more transparency to prospective students by showing data on the number of grads that had jobs within a period of time after graduation, and at what pay. Through their association, The American Bar Association, law schools agreed to provide U.S. News and World Report with this data and allow them to use it to rate a college. That means prospective students will be able to see which colleges produced the most grads, with the jobs after graduation, and what their annual salaries were.
Armed with that information prospective students will be able to make a decision about whether investing in a law degree from the college is worth it. (Interesting to note. Past surveys indicated lawyers earned an average of $4 million dollars in their lifetime)
In the past year, I’ve been hearing more government officials to talk about providing similar information to undergraduate students. While the data is still difficult for most colleges to collect, an online model has emerged to show prospective students and their parents how well grads are not only doing from a specific college, but by major too! President Obama considered this an important part of restructuring the student loan program and authorized the development of the College Scorecard.
As public funding for higher education is being cut by governors across the country, they ironically started to put more strings attached to the money they provided to encourage colleges to become more transparent to their prospective customers. In my State, Governor Kasich assembled a committee from the 43 public schools and challenges the design of a system that would reward them for the number of students that graduated. Other states are doing the same thing. Governors know their business leaders are looking for more educated workers and that voters with degrees will also pay more taxes.
Now law schools are upping the game and creating law firms to absorb some of their grads each year. The Arizona State University Law School just announced the formation of a nonprofit organization they are calling the Alumni Law Group that will employ up to 30 graduates. The idea is to give more graduates an opportunity to hone their skills under the tutelage of professionals and give them a better chance of starting out their careers using the knowledge and skills they picked up in law school.
While the university is suggesting this program is being introduced to help give more people access to affordable attorneys, critics are suggesting this is just an attempt to fudge their numbers and rank higher on the U.S. News and World Report. Being able to report 30 more grads having a job each year immediately after graduation could be worth the time and investment in a program like this.
So that brings me to the point of this blog article…
What does your college owe your graduates?
Do you think you owe them a job for investing the cost of an average American home for their education?
A number of colleges are experimenting with the idea of guaranteeing students that after they graduate, if they are not earning enough to pay back their loans, the college will step in to help. Alma College, Tufts University, Spring Arbor University and Huntington University are among them. Colleges are paying the LRAP Association roughly $1,200 per student year to provide a fund that will guarantee the loan repayment. While it does increase the cost of education, it provides a safe landing spot for students after they graduate.
Gwinnett Technical college “If one of our graduates, who was educated under a standard program, and his/her employer agrees that the employee is deficient in one or more competencies as defined in the standards, the technical college will retrain that employee at no instructional cost to employee or employer.”