Monday, May 23, 2011
"Will Legal Education Remain Affordable, By Whom, And How?"
In 1987, John Kramer, the Dean of Tulane Law School, published an article raising concerns about the adverse consequences of ever-increasing tuition. The article begins:
Mike Konczal with the Roosevelt Institute had a great post a month ago about the funding of public education generally. His analysis likely has some relevance as far as the cost escalation at Law Schools goes.
The short version is that student loan programs are likely part of the problem (he also looks at this issue from the angle of grants). Part of the issue is related to the price elasticity question. He doesn't go into the second question in the same detail, but another side of the equation is that student loans help to insulate state legislators from the consequences of cut-backs in higher education funding. The increases in tuition at the state level don't tend to generate an uproar or backlash (especially if the cuts are done incrementally), in part because students are still able to gain access to higher ed by incurring debts. Those debts don't become an issue until after graduation when students need to start paying off the loans (the issue about earning potential is still abstract for many students -- at least I know it was for me).
Koczal's solution -- which he pulls from another post by another Econ blogger JW Mason -- is that instead of federal loan guarantees, or grants, what might work better are direct subsidies to public universities designed to lower tuition costs.
The reasoning in this approach is that as public universities become more competitive on tuition costs, and more students opt to take advantage of the lower costs, this puts downward pressure on tuition costs at private institutions.
Thanks for the link. The analysis in the post (and the one he links to) is persuasive.
I agree that the federal loan program is a part of the problem. It must be capped at lower levels, and it must come with an assessment of likelihood of repayment.
Some will object that this will make law school out reach for lower income people, but we have already reached that point thanks to tuition increases by law schools. Additional restrictions on federal loan guarantees will impose discipline on law schools--limiting tuition increases--and will save prospective students from debt servitude that cannot be repaid.
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