Look what's happening to law school prices

Tulane University

(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Young Americans' interest in attending law school has declined significantly in the last couple of years as their opportunities to practice law have shrunk.

The number of people applying to law school has dropped 25 percent, while the percentage of newly minted law students who can't find jobs in the field has grown. That's why I find it strange that the nation's law schools have stubbornly continued to raise their prices far above the rate of inflation.

According to a new analysis from The National Law Journal, average tuition at private law schools jumped approximately four percent last year to $40,585. Meanwhile, tuition climbed 6 percent at public law schools, which have an average tuition of $23,590.

The cost of a law school education has long been high, so it's no wonder that the typical student graduates with an average debt of $100,433.

Also puzzling is that people keep applying to law school. A simple Google search for "law school grad prospects" would reveal copious warnings about the financial and career dangers of attending law school. I've written my own cautionary posts.)

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I agree with Deborah Jones Merritt, a law professor at Ohio State University and former managing editor of the Columbia Law Review, who believes that these reckless price hikes at law schools must stop. She wrote this week on a blog called Inside the Law School Scam:

It's time for law schools to wake up and smell the burning toaster. We have been raising tuition -- substantially -- while our applicants have been getting poorer and their job prospects have been dwindling. We are continuing to raise prices as applicant demand falls. These are not wise business strategies. Worse than that, these actions are professionally irresponsible -- in the old-fashioned, non-technical sense of the phrase.

My own hope is that the piggish tuition increases by the nation's law schools will serve to discourage even more young Americans from becoming lawyers. After all, the country certainly doesn't need them.

Image courtesy of Tulane University

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