Roger Williams University School of Law in Rhode Island is the latest to reduce tuition amid a tough student-recruiting climate.
Administrators announced on Wednesday that they would drop annual tuition next year by about 18 percent, from $41,400 to $32,792, effective for all students for the next three years.
“This reduced tuition rate makes Roger Williams University School of Law one of the best values on the East Coast and creates access for an even broader population of future attorneys,” university president Donald Farish said. “As the only law school in Rhode Island, we see this as particularly important to residents of our state.”
The new rate will be on the low end for private law schools, which charge an average $40,732, according to the American Bar Association.
Roger Williams faces serious challenges on the recruiting front, having been hit harder then most by the decline in new students during the past three years. The number of incoming law students nationwide has fallen by 24 percent since 2010, but Rogers Williams enrolled just 111 new students this fall—a 28 percent decrease from the previous year and a 49 percent decline since 2010.
With fewer students enrolling, and far fewer paying full price, the law school needed to rethink, Farish said. In the past, schools could rely on the lure of well-paying jobs to fill ever-growing classes of students willing to pay steadily increasing tuition rates. Not anymore. “If pricing stays the same, we are basically asking people to stay away,” Farish said. “We just wanted to do a bit of a restart in terms of our pricing model. We wanted to make a statement on that point.”
Other law schools reached the same conclusion. Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law in November announced that it would cut tuition by $20,000 per year for Pennsylvania residents. Its 1L enrollment had dropped by 38 percent in a single year.
Additionally, the University of Akron School of Law; the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law; the University of Cincinnati College of Law; the University of Iowa College of Law; and Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law each announced tuition reductions in 2013.
Rogers Williams froze its undergraduate tuition in 2012 and guaranteed that rate would not rise during a student’s four years at the school; the move helped boost freshman enrollment and retention of sophomores, Farish said. Administrators hope for similar returns for the law school.
Law students already enrolled may retain their existing financial aid packages and pay the standing $41,400 tuition, or forgo their assistance and pay the new tuition rate. Scholarships will be available once the new rate takes effect.
The cut will mean a revenue decline, Farish said, but the university has committed as much as $1 million to fill the funding gap next year.
Meanwhile, university officials announced that longtime law faculty member Michael Yelnosky will assume the deanship at the end of this academic year. Yelnosky has taught at Roger Williams since 1993 and was a founding member of its law faculty. He served as associate dean for academic affairs for four years. He will replace David Logan, who is stepping down after 10 years to return to teaching.