Law School is Getting Cheaper in Arizona
As a student considering attending law school in a couple years, I can’t help but hope that the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law is starting a trend. The law school recently announced that they were slashing their out of state tuition by over 25 percent, lowering their yearly tuition from $38,841 to $29,000 for nonresident students. There are several reasons why this might become a trend, but the main one is that law school enrollment is down and many law schools are losing money. These schools have to respond to a changing market. And the University of Arizona is doing a truly laudable job with their response.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia certainly thinks that shifts like Arizona’s will become a trend. Scalia, in his commencement address to William and Mary Law School graduates, bluntly dismissed any “law school in two years” concept. According to Scalia, law is not a trade but a profession, and there is no way to learn all that needs to be learned in just two years. He thinks that a student must have a wide base of knowledge in the many types of law and requires three years of study. However, he also thinks that law schools are currently overvalued. The solution to Scalia, therefore, is for law schools to lower prices rather than offer two-year programs.
Scalia also has plans for how law schools will survive the loss in revenue. He thinks that there are too many law professors and that they get paid too much. Some law professors get paid twice as much as federal judges, despite a less intense workload. In Scalia’s eyes, it would be reasonable to pay law professors less and expect them to teach more.
So is Scalia right and is Arizona a part of the beginning of a trend for law school tuition decreases? It’s hard to imagine that they are not. Based on an Arizona Board of Regents report, Arizona’s law school is now 30 percent cheaper than the average cost of other law schools. Dean Marc Miller told The Arizona Daily Star that, “we’re responding to the market in changing times. It will have more students looking at us more seriously early on.” If the dean is correct, and saving over ten grand in tuition draws students to Arizona in high numbers, other schools will have to follow suit.
Arizona is not the only law school to lower its tuition recently. Roger Williams Law School, Brooklyn Law School, and Iowa Law School have all made similar moves. The cuts have ranged from 15 to 18 percent, although Arizona offered the highest cut in terms of percentage. If these schools experience an increase in applications and enrollment, all law schools, except perhaps the elite ones, will have to lower prices to compete.
As a potential law student, the two-year law degree is very tempting and if it was an option I think I would have to take it. I would imagine most law students would choose that route. It means one less year of school and saves you $30,000-$50,000. That being said, I understand Scalia’s argument and would not be disappointed if the two-year program never came to fruition, especially if costs go down. If Arizona did not reduce cost, but adopted a two year program, it would cost an out of state student $77,682. Under the new reduced cost plan, it will cost a student $87,000 for three years. That bill is still more than a hypothetical two-year program, but the overall savings might make it worth the third year, especially if it enhances your ability to be a lawyer and earn money.
The University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law staff did not comment as of press time.
Matt DeWilde (@matt_dewilde25) is a member of the American University class of 2016 majoring in politics and considering going to law school. He loves writing about politics, reading, watching Netflix, and long walks on the beach. Contact Matt at staff@LawStreetMedia.com.
Featured image courtesy of [Light Brigading via Flickr]