Crisis in Legal Education
I’d like to veer off the focus of this blog(topics in primary or secondary education) and post a few links to articles on the state of legal education in the United States.
In the past several years, many have written about the grim job market that law school graduates face in this country. Even as job recovery is gaining pace this year, law schools and their graduates still seem to be struggling to adjust to the new reality.
Earlier year, New York Times reported that law school applications are expected to be at a 30-year low.
As of this month, there were 30,000 applicants to law schools for the fall, a 20 percent decrease from the same time last year and a 38 percent decline from 2010, according to theLaw School Admission Council. Of some 200 law schools nationwide, only 4 have seen increases in applications this year. In 2004 there were 100,000 applicants to law schools; this year there are likely to be 54,000.
There has also been reforms within law schools to make legal education less expensive and more relevant to the job market.
A number of schools, including elite ones like Stanford, have increased their attention to clinics, where students get hands-on training. Northeastern Law School in Boston, which has long emphasized in-the-field training, has had one of the smallest decreases in its applicant pool this year, according to Jeremy R. Paul, the new dean.
Earlier this year, The Economist also reported on the conference held at New York University, which held a discussion on cutting the length of the JD program by one year.
The reason for the event was a recently published article by Samuel Estreicher, a professor at NYU, entitled “The Roosevelt-Cardozo Way: The case for bar eligibility after two years of law school”. Rules in almost every state require an undergraduate degree and then a three-year law degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Mr Estreicher wants students to take the bar before completing their degrees, and, if they pass, letting them practise—as Benjamin Cardozo (a revered judge) and Franklin Roosevelt did before the three-year rule became universal in the early 20th century.
There also have been reports of law schools setting up firms to train their graduates and make them become more employable. Arizona State is planning to set up a non-profit law firm, where 30 graduates will provide a wide range of legal services at relatively low cost. Several schools have set up training programs that send their graduates to public service-oriented positions or train them to become solo practitioners.
The most recent article on the Atlantic also highlighted the job crisis in the legal market. According to recent data released by the American Bar Association, just 56 percent of the class of 2012 had found full-time, long-term positions, nine months after graduation. Even among the top programs, the numbers are grim, with underemployment reaching double digits for schools past top 9.
Here is the concluding remark:
JD’s consistently dive six figures into debt and give up three years of other opportunities for an education that prepares them with a very specific, not-so-easily transferred skill set (please forget the old saw that “you can do anything with a law degree”). There are some schools where the investment practically always pays off — a Harvard or University of Virginia degree is still looking good these days — but at many schools, reputation trumps results.
Students aspiring to enter JD programs will need to think long and hard about their opportunity costs. Legal academies should continue their efforts to reform the education to help their (debt-ridden) graduates cope well with the current job market.
NYT series on continuing education
Check out the NYT special section on continuing education for notable articles.
The Great Aid Gap discusses the difficulty of students to finance noncredit certificate programs with federal financial aid. A recent Georgetown University study
found that men with nondegree certificates in computer/information services earned $72,498 a year on average — more money than 72 percent of men with associate’s degrees and more than 54 percent of men with bachelor’s degrees.
Despite the clear benefits that students attain from such programs, many are barred from entering these programs due to unavailability of financial aid. Read the full article for more stories.
The next article discusses new opportunities that are arising as the population ages.
“As tens of millions of people live into their 80s and 90s, we’ll need millions of others in their 50s and 60s and 70s to help care for them — no
t just within families, but through second careers,” said Marc Freedman, author of “The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife.”
The full article discusses interviews with people who are tapping into the new field, from those who teach fitness classes for older adults to those that consult on elderly-friendly design.
The next article discusses classes that open doors to career in tourism industry. Community colleges, universities, and professional associations all offer degree programs or short-term certificate programs on tourism, making the industry for accommodating people with diverse backgrounds.
Sallay Kim, retired after 20 years in the Army, recently earned a master’s degree in tourism administration at George Washington University, taking traditional and online classes. “She used a skill set from the Army to start a business,” Ms. Hargrove said of Mrs. Kim, who co-founded Serenity Event Solutions, an event management company based in Lorton, Va., that helps local companies and groups visiting the Washington area. Mrs. Kim, 41, a former intelligence officer, said: “What military professional is not proficient in planning? That’s what we do for a living.”
Musings on the Atlanta Schools cheating scandal
Recently, the Atlantic published two fascinating articles on the Atlanta Schools cheating scandal.
Here is what happened:
Nearly three dozen Atlanta Public Schools employees — ranging all the way up from classroom teachers to central office administrators to former Superintendent Beverly Hall — face stiff fines and jail time over allegations that they changed students’ answer sheets on high-stakes statewide exams. The indictment has 65 counts, including racketeering, false statements and writings, and influencing witnesses.
The first article notes the tremendous pressure that standardized test scores put on administrators and educators and muses on we might blame the recent array of cheating scandals on the assessment process which stresses only one measure of achievement.
The second article is more nuanced. The author argues that high-stakes testing does lead to cheating, for the following reason:
Professions with social respect and social capital, like doctors and lawyers, collaborate in the creation of their own standards. The assumption is that those standards are intrinsic to the profession’s goals, and that, therefore, professionals themselves are best equipped to establish and monitor them. Teachers’ standards, though, are imposed from outside — as if teachers are children, or as if teaching is a game.
High-stakes testing, then, does leads to cheating. It does not create unethical behavior — but it does create the particular unethical behavior of “cheating.” And while it’s true that unethical behavior in itself is not a reason to get rid of incentives for excellence, it seems like this scandal might be a good moment to think about what incentives we actually are creating, and why.
This opinion piece is a valuable addition to the criticism of the assessment methods in our public school system.
colleges are failing to attract poor students
This was a front page article about an extremely interesting study published by Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery.
Only 34 percent of high-achieving high school seniors in the bottom fourth of income distribution attended any one of the country’s 238 most selective colleges, according to the analysis, conducted by Caroline M. Hoxby of Stanford and Christopher Avery of Harvard, two longtime education researchers. Among top students in the highest income quartile, that figure was 78 percent.
Instead, many high-achieving poor students attend community colleges and four-year institutions closer to their homes. This is a shame because such institutions offer fewer resources to students and have lower graduation rates than top schools. Top institutions also are more likely to have generous financial aid programs that alleviate the out-of-pocket expenses.For colleges, the potential recruiting techniques include mailed brochures, phone calls, e-mail, social media and outreach from alumni. Another recent study, cited in the Hoxby-Avery paper, suggests that very selective colleges have at least one graduate in the “vast majority of U.S. counties.”
The paper offers hope that more high-achieving poor students would advance to top institutions if they were more informed about the opportunities available.
The authors emphasized that their data did not prove that students not applying to top colleges would apply and excel if colleges recruited them more heavily. Ms. Hoxby and Sarah Turner, a University of Virginia professor, are conducting follow-up research in which they perform random trials to evaluate which recruiting techniques work and how the students subsequently do.
Read the full article here.
Health of American universities
Steep rises in tuition and student debt level have left many concerned about the health of American universities.
Start with the fees. The cost of university per student has risen by almost five times the rate of inflation since 1983 (see chart 1), making it less affordable and increasing the amount of debt a student must take on. Between 2001 and 2010 the cost of a university education soared from 23% of median annual earnings to 38%; in consequence, debt per student has doubled in the past 15 years. Two-thirds of graduates now take out loans. Those who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2011 graduated with an average of $26,000 in debt, according to the Project on Student Debt, a non-profit group.
Although money spent on higher education has tripled since the early 1960s (from one cent in every dollar to three cents), the quality of college graduates has declined over time. According to a federal survey,
Only a quarter were deemed proficient, defined as “using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential”. Almost a third of students these days do not take any courses that involve more than 40 pages of reading over an entire term.
Here is another sobering fact:
Another issue is that the salary gap between those with only a high-school diploma and those with a university degree is created by the plummeting value of the diploma, rather than by soaring graduate salaries. After adjusting for inflation, graduates earned no more in 2007 than they did in 1979. Young graduates facing a decline in earnings over the past decade (16% for women, 19% for men), and a lot more debt, are unlikely to feel particularly cheered by the argument that, over a lifetime, they would be even worse off without a degree than with one.
to read the full Economist article on the state of American universities.
Despite heated debates on the value of college education, bachelor’s degrees have gotten more valuable over time.
Some of that wage premium has to do with the changing nature of American jobs and the skills (and social networks) attained in college. Some of it may have to do with a change in the mix of students who go to college and those who don’t. As college enrollment becomes more expected of high school students — as of October 2011, 68.3 percent of 2011 high school graduates were enrolled in college — the shrinking group of students forgoing college may have other characteristics that are associated with lower wages.
Among the 10 occupations with the biggest percent increases in requiring a college degree, are dental hygienists, cargo agents, and photographers. Click here to read the full article and the full list of occupations
Mixed picture of the School Improvement Grants program
An analysis released by the US Department of Education shows mixed results of the first year of the School Improvement Grant program.
Read the recap on Education Week blog here.
Out of 731 schools that received funding in the first year of the program, 25 percent posted double-digit gains in math, and 15 percent posted double-digit gains in reading. Forty percent posted single-digit gains in math, and 49 percent posted single-digit gains in reading. Twenty-eight percent saw a single-digit dip in math, 29 percent in reading. Another 6 percent saw a double-digit decline in math, 8 percent in reading.
New report implores school leaders to use technology reforms
Read the recap of the new report released by the Alliance for Excellent Education.
The Alliance for Excellent Education has released a new report that implores school leaders to take a more deliberate approach in using technology reforms as part of a comprehensive plan to address four pressures that face contemporary schools.
The report identifies those four pressures as the need for improved achievement, the tightening of school budgets, the changing demographics of the teaching force, and the increasing technology demands of the outside world.
Education issues in the coming election
Education dive has done such a wonderful job of summarizing key education issues at stake at this year’s elections!
Click here to read 5 education issues in the 2012 Presidential elections. Click here to read about 6 states with education issues on the ballot. Education Dive is a great source for keeping up with news in education.
Minority students at elite boarding school
Read this incredible piece on New York Times, on experiences of minority students at elite private schools in New York City. Having attended boarding school myself, the part on the segregation within the student body rings very true.
But schools’ efforts to attract minority students haven’t always been matched by efforts to truly make their experience one of inclusion, students and school administrators say. Pervading their experience, the students say, is the gulf between those with seemingly endless wealth and resources and those whose families are struggling, a divide often reflected by race.
College affordability in the presidential campaign
President Obama has been proactive in boosting college affordability through increased aid to community colleges, increased aid for low- and middle-income students.
While his efforts were praised by many education experts, conservative analysts have expressed doubts on effectiveness of his policies.
ome conservatives have pushed that critique further, saying that Mr. Obama’s policies are too costly, often assist the wrong people and could have the paradoxical effect of driving up college costs. The dispute turns not just on different assessments of how policies play out, but on differing philosophical views about the role of government.
Read the full article here.