UI College of Law enrollment down, tuition rises


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Despite a decline in enrollment, law-school tuitions have been on the rise nationally for the past few years, the National Law Journal reports, and the University of Iowa is no exception.

Students and faculty at the UI College of Law all gave reasons on why fewer students are applying — the two most common reasons being rising tuition and the decreasing number of available jobs after graduation.

Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students President Michael Appel said it is no surprise that enrollment has dropped because of the cost of school, but tuition is not the only reason students are second-guessing themselves when it comes time to apply.

“The rising cost of tuition and the fact that its becoming more and more difficult for law students to get jobs is definitely a reason that people are thinking twice about applying,” the law student said. “The economy has been getting better these last few years. There are more law jobs now but still not enough.”

The American Bar Association released the average cost of law school tuition from 1985-2011 in June. In 1985, the average price in-state students would have to pay to attend a public law school was $2,006 — out of state was at $4,724. In 2011, that number increased to $22,116 for in-state students and $34,865.

Appel said the economy took a toll on tuition and enrollment at the UI law school.

“Before the bubble burst of the economy, people thought that going to law school was a guarantee that you’ll get a job, but it’s not anymore,” he said. “When people think twice, they tend to weigh their options and decide if it’s right for them.”

Clinical Professor of Law at the UI Lois Cox said she has noticed these trends affect the college.

“It just seems to me that it’s largely a function of the economy that people are unwilling to incur that and they are just in general behaving cautiously with that money,” she said. “I think Iowa is a relatively low priced institution, but there’s still significant cost to it.”

The current tuition rates at the UI College of Law are $27,344 for residents and $47,792 for nonresidents. As of this month, the entering class size in the law school is 155 students. In 2011, 180 students were in the entering class, and in 2010, the number was 203.

Both Cox and Appel said the college has done a good job of responding to the current state of the economy.

“Our statistics are still pretty good,” Cox said. “I think our school has done a pretty good job of helping our graduates find work.”

Appel said he thinks more colleges and universities should follow what the UI has been doing.

“The law school is responding to the job market which means taking in less students,” he said. “I think if other law schools aren’t doing this, they should be. Whether that’s doing the exact same thing Iowa is doing or just making sure they are responding to the state of the economy and the job market.”

According to the UI College of Law website, out of 183 College of Law graduates in 2011, 168 were employed nine months after graduation.

Luke Stauffer, a second-year law student, said while the problem of tuition is still affecting the schools, the smaller class sizes could be seen as a benefit.

“As far as the caliber of law school, I think it’s a little bit better because the class sizes are getting smaller,” he said. “The fact that prices are continuing to go up — I think it needs to be addressed. How it needs to be done? I don’t know.”

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