Apply to the law school. Get accepted. Schedule a visit to campus. Enroll. Get your first year of textbooks for free.

That’s the marketing tactic adopted by the University of Dayton School of Law this year. Accepted students who take the time to tour the law campus before they enroll will receive $1,000 toward the cost of textbooks during their first year, the school announced on Feb. 1.

The purpose of the offer is twofold, according to Janet Hein, assistant dean and director of admissions and financial aid: It will help new students defray the cost of their legal education (annual tuition is $33,280 and textbooks generally cost an additional $1,000 to $1,500 per year) and expose more prospective students to the law school in hopes that they enroll.

“At a time of sinking law school applications, I think law schools are thinking about how to find incentives to bring students in,” she said. “We thought this was a creative idea, and is something tangible that students can touch and feel. It’s basically a $1,000 scholarship for every student, and we hope it will increase the number of students who visit and possibly increase our yield” — the percentage of accepted students who enroll.

Once prospective students are on campus, they can inspect the school’s facilities; meet faculty, students and alumni; and sample the atmosphere. They would come away with a fuller picture than they’d gain simply by looking at the school’s Web site, Hein said.

The idea to offer free textbooks was borrowed from the university’s undergraduate program, which began offering a similar perk earlier this year.

“Lowering tuition is something that’s out of my control,” Hein said. “That’s a lengthy budgetary process. But this is something we could do relatively quickly.”

Many law schools waive application fees for some students — often those with high scores on the Law School Admission Test. A few offer iTunes gift cards or cover travel expenses for prospects to visit campus. And while law schools are under budgetary pressure due to cuts in public funding, hard-hit endowments and the higher cost of hands-on training, they also face a steep decline in applicants. Applications to American Bar Association-accredited schools fell by 10 percent last year, and preliminary numbers this year indicate a nearly 17 percent decline.

“We’ve definitely seen applications drop, as well,” Hein said, predicting that more law schools will consider incentives such as paying for textbooks.

Dayton’s offer of free textbooks isn’t open to just any accepted student who drops by. They must schedule a visit through the admissions office or attend an admitted student law day program. Hein said the program is being tested this year, but she hopes it will continue. If two-thirds of next year’s entering class takes advantage, it would cost the school between $100,000 and $150,000, she said.

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