Why Misleading Law School Stats Mess With Paying Off Student Loans
November 6, 2012

We live in a world rife with fraudulent claims. Ezra Pound described the phenomenon: “when the word is not constantly striving towards precision, the nation decays on its head.” Seriously, how great would it be if you could walk down the street of any American city, see a sign offering “Authentic Mexican Food” and know that you could walk into that establishment and be served authentic Mexican food. It’s a pleasant fantasy to be sure.

There are plenty of things you can do to protect yourself from unsanitary linguistics, aka fraud. One of them is to use and trust your own powers of scrutiny. In the case of the restaurant, you can often (though by no means always) get a pretty good idea on spec about what kind of an experience you’re likely to have there. This has more or less been the argument of a New York judge earlier this year who threw out a class action law suit against law schools.

The New York class action suit was just one of many. Law schools all over the country have been sued for the same reason. Law school tuitions have risen at an even higher rate than many other graduate degree programs. The plaintiffs argued that they were willing to pay such extraordinarily high tuition costs because the schools led them to believe that, in the case of New York Law School, post-graduates had a 92% rate of employment. The school failed to mention that this statistic included part-time lawyers as well as graduates working jobs that don’t require a law degree.

As a result, students believed that they would have a high probability of attaining full-time employment, trusting that their law degree would provide them with a higher earning potential. They had good faith that this would in turn enable them to repay the necessary student loans to cover the cost of tuition.

Judge Schweitzer of the New York Supreme court ruled: “By anyone’s definition, reasonable consumers — college graduates — seriously considering law schools are a sophisticated subset of education consumers, capable of sifting through data and weighing alternatives before making a decision regarding their post-college options.”

In a similar class action suit against Thomas M. Cooley, the case was also dismissed. However, the ruling was not without some sympathy for students’ point of view. In this case Judge Quist took issue with the ABA’s requirements for reporting law schools’ employment statistics: “The bottom line is that the statistics provided by Cooley and other law schools in a format required by the ABA were so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless and could not reasonably be relied upon.” The ABA, a powerful accrediting agency, has since improved their requirements.

Image Source: Tulane Public Relations

Meanwhile there are many law school graduates carrying large and unwieldy student debts, and having great difficulty finding employment in their field. Fortunately there is great help to be had in securing appropriate student debt management for such loans. Struggling graduates will be well served by seeking assistance from a student aid organization who specialized in this area.