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Beginning this fall, full-time and evening students will be offered a guaranteed flat tuition rate during the life of their careers at New York Law School. “It provides two good things for our students,” said Dean Richard A. Matasar. “It allows them to plan financially for their entire time in school, and their scholarships retain value. It gives us something, too: discipline.” Fred DeJohn, associate dean for finance and administration, said full-time students this fall term would be charged a guaranteed annual tuition of $31,960 — a 12.5 percent boost from last season’s $28,400. Evening students on a four-year course to graduation would be guaranteed an annual tuition rate of $24,650, representing a 16 percent rise over last year’s figure of $21,250. Spread over three or four years of enrollment, the adjusted flat-rate tuitions at New York Law School would fall below the typical 6 to 10 percent annual increases seen at some other state campuses, according to Henry M. Greenberg, a partner in the Albany, N.Y., firm Couch White who recently headed a State Bar Association committee on tuition assistance. But still, said Greenberg, steep tuition expense has a “deleterious impact” on the lives of young lawyers who seek public interest or government law careers, or who would prefer to be small town attorneys. “If you want to hang out a shingle in Wyoming County and you owe a six-figure debt,” said Greenberg, “it becomes very, very difficult.” Which begs the question: Why do tuition rates outpace virtually everything else in terms of inflation? Dean Matasar said the math is simple. “Law schools have a finite number of seats,” he said. “We can’t increase class sizes, we can’t sell more of our stuff. Our costs don’t go down, yet the service demands of our students go up — and will continue to go up. “Twenty years ago, students didn’t have computers,” Dean Matasar added. “There was no career service, admissions were generally by word of mouth, and counselors weren’t necessary. “When I went to law school myself, there was no such thing as [the Occupational Safety and Health Act], legal writing wasn’t required, and there were no clinics. These are now things that make our profession better.” Flat-rate tuition is no radical idea, according to research by Dean Matasar and his colleagues at New York Law School. He said that Brooklyn Law School, among other campuses in New York, offered predictable costs back in the 1970s. But then came the “boom years” of law school in the late ’70s and 1980s, with double-digit tuition hikes. Long-established campuses such as Columbia Law School and New York University School of Law, he said, were able to keep increases a bit lower. Dean Matasar said that going back to the future with a flat-rate plan would help control the admittedly upward spiral of tuition costs. “There’s a part of me that’s somewhat apologetic because you hate to raise the price, but we have to keep up with expectations,” he said. “The public demands better-trained lawyers. We have to deliver more services to our students.”

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