Movement To Lower Law School Tuition Gains Steam

Movement To Lower Law School Tuition Gains Steam Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Another two law schools have effectively lowered tuition amid a tough admissions cycle.

The University of Tulsa College of Law and Thomas Jefferson School of Law announced scholarship programs designed to render a juris doctor more affordable and themselves more appealing to the dwindling number of law school applicants nationwide.

Total law school applicants as of Feb. 21 were down nearly 12 percent compared to the same point in 2013, according to the Law School Admission Council. And that was hardly a boon year—the number of new 1Ls was the lowest since 1975. If the trend holds, there will be some 52,600 law school applicants this year, down from 87,500 in 2010.

Tulsa’s Access to Legal Education Scholarship will cut tuition in half for incoming students from 12 states. Prospects will be eligible if they reside in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas or Wyoming or hold undergraduate degrees from institutions in one of those states.

Students will receive an $18,000 scholarship each year, reducing the $34,430 annual tuition to $16,430, as long as they maintain a 2.0 grade-point average. The program will take effect next fall.

The program “directly responds to rising tuition, mounting student debt and a challenging job market for law graduates,” dean Janet Levit said. “A report released just last month by the American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of Legal Education encourages innovation among law schools, and TU Law is responding swiftly to this call for action with major new funding.”

Tulsa enrolled 148 students in 2010 but just 83 last fall.

Thomas Jefferson in San Diego is taking a different approach by offering scholarships both to incoming and transfer students next fall. Eligibility for these Guaranteed Merit Scholarships depends on academic credentials—the higher the LSAT score and undergraduate grade-point average, the more scholarship money.

For example, a student with an LSAT of 158 or higher and a GPA of 3.5 or higher would be eligible for a $44,000 annual scholarship that would cover full tuition, while one with an LSAT between 140 and 144 and an undergraduate GPA between 2.0 and 2.49 would receive $1,000.

Eligibility for transfer students will depend on their class rank. A fulltime student in the top 20 percent of his or her class will receive a $20,000 scholarship, while one in the top 40 percent would get $10,000. Students would retain their scholarships as long as they remain in good standing.

“We know that paying for law school is a crucial factor in the decision-making process” dean Thomas Guernsey said. “By adopting this new Guaranteed Merit Scholarship program, we are helping our students reduce the cost of their legal education as long as they remain enrolled and maintain good standing. It’s a win-win situation.”

Thomas Jefferson has also been hit hard by declining enrollment—323 new students enrolled last fall, compared to 440 the previous year.

Schools elsewhere have reacted by lowering tuition outright for some or all students (the University of Akron School of Law, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law). Others are offering automatic scholarships to large numbers of students (including Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law and the University of Toledo College of Law).

Contact Karen Sloan at For more of The National Law Journal’s law school coverage, visit: