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Rising tuition. Tough job prospects. Costly accreditation requirements. The challenges facing law schools are not unique to legal education, according to a report by the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. Rather, legal education’s troubles reflect widespread problems with higher education, according to the report, “What Can We Learn for Law School? Legal Education Reflects Issues Found in All of Higher Education.” Author Julie Margetta Morgan used legal education to illustrate those challenges and suggest ways to get better consumer information to students and ensure that accreditation costs don’t drive up tuition. “Legal education suffers from many of the same doubts and problems that plague all of higher education,” she wrote. “But with only 198 fully accredited ABA-approved law schools in operation, legal education is a bite-sized version of the phenomena that are forcing change in all of our colleges.” Morgan identified a number of law school trends that will sound familiar to anyone who has followed legal education during the past two years: * Tuition has increased rapidly during the past 25 years—#8212;significantly faster than annual real growth of undergraduate tuition. And law graduates carry an average education debt load of $92,937, topped only by graduates of medical school. * Insurmountable education debt is curtailing career and life options for recent graduates. * A growing number of people are flocking to law schools, which have seen first-year enrollment increase by nearly 150 percent since the 1960s. * Legal jobs are harder for new graduates to secure, and often pay less than what law students expect. “Given that the poor jobs outlook for recent law school graduates has been brewing for some time, why haven’t schools responded by admitting fewer students, lower tuition, or changing their education model?” Morgan wrote. “And why has it taken students so long to respond by choosing not to attend law school, or not pay so much for legal education?” Morgan faulted policymakers for being slow to respond to the changes. Morgan noted that the American Bar Association has come under criticism for its oversight of law schools. While graduates of ABA-accredited schools tend to fare better on bar exams and in securing jobs than those from unaccredited schools, the myriad accreditation standards add to the cost of legal education, she wrote. Additionally, recent law graduates and several U.S. senators have questioned how the ABA polices job placement data and ensures that prospective students have accurate information. “To ensure students get the best value from their legal educations, both students and schools must become more flexible and more attuned to the ebbs and flows of the legal workplace,” Morgan wrote. “In addition, policymakers must ensure their quality-assurance methods do not stand in the way of changes that would increase the value of the law school degree.” Her report recommends: * The Bureau of Labor Statistics should “collect and publish average employment and salary data for recent entrants into an occupation,” and work with the U.S. Department of Education to get that information into the hands of prospective students. * All accrediting agencies should define employment and salary statistics, mandate that schools make those figures publicly available and audit the numbers occasionally. * Congress should require the ABA to develop those definitions or risk losing its status as the recognized law school accreditor. * The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity should review and report to lawmakers on accreditation standards that drive up tuition costs or stifle innovation. * Congress should fund experimental projects or technology aimed at decreasing costs and improving educational quality. Contact Karen Sloan at [email protected].

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