Law Schools experience decline in enrollment due to applicants fear of high debt... Dentistry next?

Mo007

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December 17, 2013 1:12 PM
First-Year Law School Enrollment Lowest Since 1977
By Jennifer Smith

First-year enrollment at U.S. law schools plunged to its lowest level since 1977, as students steered away from a career that has left many recent graduates loaded with debt and struggling to find work.

The American Bar Association said on Tuesday that the number of first-year law students fell 11% this year. So far, 39,675 full-time and part-time students enrolled in law school, nearly 5,000 fewer than in 2012.

The drop extends a decline that is now in its third year. More than 52,000 would-be lawyers entered their first year of law school in 2010, an all-time high. Many of those students were thought to be seeking shelter from the economic tumult of the recession.

But even then the job market for newly-minted attorneys was contracting.

Many big law firms laid off junior lawyers during the downturn and slashed expenses as clients facing their own financial troubles pressed for discounts. Some lower-level legal tasks that firm associates used to do, such as document review, are now increasingly farmed out to contract attorneys or legal outsourcing companies that can do the work more cheaply.

“I think the collapse of the job market a few years ago was a surprise to the profession, and to law schools,” said Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education.

The market remains challenging for recent graduates, some of whom emerge with loans that can total more than $150,000.

Those considering legal careers appear to be paying attention. This fall, approximately two-thirds of the 202 U.S. law schools accredited by the ABA reported declines in first-year enrollment. That slide exceeded 10% at 81 law schools, though the ABA has declined to say which ones.

Law school enrollment grew from the mid-1970s through the 1990s, with first-year enrollment ranging between about 39,000 and 44,000. Those numbers then began to climb more steeply in the early 2000s—for example, first-year enrollment jumped 7.46% in 2002.

“There was a presumption that the market for law school graduates was growing,” Mr. Currier said. “Back when things were ramping up—no one should expect that those numbers were going to be sustainable for a long time.”

The recent downswing has led some law schools to cut staff and trim faculty ranks as they try to balance budgets with fewer tuition dollars.

A handful have lowered tuition, largely through reducing the amount paid by out-of-state students. Some schools have relaxed admissions standards to keep up class size, while others have intentionallyshrunk the number of students they admit so to preserve their standing in law school rankings that factor in entering students’ grades and test scores.

But the news isn’t all bad. For example, this year 27 law schools grew their first-year classes by 10% or more, according to the ABA.

The diminished demand also means less competition among applicants and future graduates, leading some industry observers to wonder whether it’s a smart time to apply to law school.

“Some schools may have corrected and are now in a position to increase their enrollment,” Mr. Currier said. “Some schools are still in the process of correction.”

http://m.us.wsj.com/articles/BL-LB-46645
 

TheWeeIceMan

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The debt itself isn't really the big issue with law school and the decline in applicants. The big issue is that nearly 50% of those attending law school won't find a job as a lawyer. Of the 50% that do find a job in law, many new grads will make 40-60k, which isn't nearly enough to live comfortably and pay off student loans. The jobs that do allow you to pay off your loans are typically very competitive and only a reasonable option for a select group of students at a small amount of schools. These positions typically pay about 160k accross the board, however the average associate doesn't last more than about 5 years in these positions.

In dentistry and medicine, the debt is normally much higher, but at least at this time, there are enough jobs available for most grads to pay off their loans and live relatively well. I guess my point is that dentistry (or medicine) won't experience the same issues as law until the point that grads are routinely unable to find jobs or at least jobs that pay enough to service loans.
 
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IMO, it is a good thing if attendance for all graduate schools drop. When the demand goes down maybe universities and institutions will drop their tuition. I've always held the belief that the issue with higher education starts with school tuition increases, not the loans themselves.
 
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Mo007

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The debt itself isn't really the big issue with law school and the decline in applicants. The big issue is that nearly 50% of those attending law school won't find a job as a lawyer. Of the 50% that do find a job in law, many new grads will make 40-60k, which isn't nearly enough to live comfortably and pay off student loans. The jobs that do allow you to pay off your loans are typically very competitive and only a reasonable option for a select group of students at a small amount of schools. These positions typically pay about 160k accross the board, however the average associate doesn't last more than about 5 years in these positions.

In dentistry and medicine, the debt is normally much higher, but at least at this time, there are enough jobs available for most grads to pay off their loans and live relatively well. I guess my point is that dentistry (or medicine) won't experience the same issues as law until the point that grads are routinely unable to find jobs or at least jobs that pay enough to service loans.
The average future dental grad (from the year 2020 onwards) will expect to graduate with $300k+ debt (including interest). That doesn't include undergrad or residency. Some of those from private schools will end up $500k+ debt by then. I have friends who recently graduated from ortho residencies with $500-600k debt, imagine 10 years from now, those numbers will go up close to another $100k.

The easy part is that those grads are able to find jobs due to shortage and demand for the profession, the hard part is are there enough candidates willing to join the profession and get stuck with $120-130k starting salaries, which 70% of it will go towards taxes and debt payments. And is there a better alternative to make $50-60k net annually without committing to the dentistry path. I'm sure job security is worth the risk, but will it justify the return of investment from dental education in the long term?

There are so many jobs with high job security out there, but people won't do it for financial reasons.

We will find out in few years.
 
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Ferneezy

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There are so many jobs with high job security out there
i'm assuming you mean on par with med/dent...but to which jobs do you refer?
 

briansle

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In today's economy, it's all about "keeping it real". How much is your job REALLY worth to society?
Let's face it, you need a skilled trade to survive. Neuro Surgeons, Dentists, plumbers, barbers, carpenters, engineering, massage therapists, strippers are all skilled tradecrafts.
In the face of Globalization and Automation you need to ask yourself. If I was forced to move to China or Brazil could I survive?

Lawyers and MBAs got a serious reality check. All they do is look pretty and talk sh!t. Where I come from, people like that get slapped.
 

Shunwei

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The point is to get into a vocation with an entry barrier (U.S. degree only, # of grads firmly set) and in demand. If a profession can offshore your job or 'in-source' (bringing in foreignes via H-1B's), then that job is not worth pursuing.
 
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The debt itself isn't really the big issue with law school and the decline in applicants. The big issue is that nearly 50% of those attending law school won't find a job as a lawyer. Of the 50% that do find a job in law, many new grads will make 40-60k, which isn't nearly enough to live comfortably and pay off student loans. The jobs that do allow you to pay off your loans are typically very competitive and only a reasonable option for a select group of students at a small amount of schools. These positions typically pay about 160k accross the board, however the average associate doesn't last more than about 5 years in these positions.

In dentistry and medicine, the debt is normally much higher, but at least at this time, there are enough jobs available for most grads to pay off their loans and live relatively well. I guess my point is that dentistry (or medicine) won't experience the same issues as law until the point that grads are routinely unable to find jobs or at least jobs that pay enough to service loans.
Pharmacy is like this.

The problem for healthcare is people have a culture of complacency. P = MD. "It doesn't matter where you go."

That's silly in law, business..and well pretty much everything. Law applications are down, but top law schools saw a decrease in acceptance rates. Quality needs to be enhanced and quantity destroyed.
 
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IMO, it is a good thing if attendance for all graduate schools drop. When the demand goes down maybe universities and institutions will drop their tuition. I've always held the belief that the issue with higher education starts with school tuition increases, not the loans themselves.
Public schools don't dictate their tuition. Your state legislature and the governing board dictates them. America has been cutting support for public higher education. Only top tier schools can turn towards their successful and copious alumni. The result is an increase in tuition. Higher education scholars have been researching this with urgency. The conclusion to a study done not too long ago was that there isn't any main reason for a hike in tuition. It's all a mix with escalating professor salaries(to compete with peers), amazing dining halls and dorms desired by parents and students(demand), textbook prices rising at the speed of light(not research enough to say...probably corporate evil to blame here), budget cuts from federal and state government(blame your governor who will in turn blame the President for the terrible economy..which in reality it's America's fault for electing the leaders they did.), sports(demand from the consumer-oh I mean student) and the gradual increase in the cost of education(technology mostly.)

Private schools can do whatever they want. They're for the private, not for the public.

So that's tuition.
 

Saddleshoes

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In today's economy, it's all about "keeping it real". How much is your job REALLY worth to society?
Let's face it, you need a skilled trade to survive. Neuro Surgeons, Dentists, plumbers, barbers, carpenters, engineering, massage therapists, strippers are all skilled tradecrafts.
In the face of Globalization and Automation you need to ask yourself. If I was forced to move to China or Brazil could I survive?

Lawyers and MBAs got a serious reality check. All they do is look pretty and talk sh!t. Where I come from, people like that get slapped.

#1 briansle, I think we might come from the same hood.
#2 This quote needs to be posted outside the door of every high school guidance counselor in the country!
 
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Shunwei

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TheWeeIceMan

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Had a cousin whose mother pressed her to pursue vet instead of pharmacy. Based on the debt-earning here it would seem like pharmacy might be the better pick, even though it is quite saturated already. At least pharmacy deals with patients who speak our language.
To be fair, this might not be a positive.
 
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Bereno

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The problem stems from financially unaware people and easily accessible federal student loans that prey on these individuals.
I would take this chart with a large grain of salt - it is potentially misleading IMO. There are a lot of factors that come into play with this graph that do not seem to be disclosed. For example, this makes dentists seem a little worse off than they actually are since many dentists do not report all of their income to the ADA, thus worsening their position on the graph. Also, there are many dentists near retirement that only work 2 days a week or so, making far less than the typical dentist. Also, is this for new grads only? If that is the case then this graph does not show earning potential, just starting expectations. If it is for all dentists, then what about those near retirement (as stated earlier)? Additionally, this graph only shows a ratio, not net take-home after student loans. All I am saying, is that this graph is just as vague as it is telling and that people should be aware of that when reading this. That said, thanks for posting, it is very interesting to look at! :)