Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Mind the Gap...

...the Generation Gap, that is... As a deeply indebted law student, I read with interest the various articles about the rising costs of law school (up over 200% since 1990) and the concomitant decline in post-graduate options for law students, who are increasingly under pressure to make money fast to pay off debt. And as a law student, I am of course sympathetic to the deeply indebted students.

But in many of these articles, I am also frustrated by the reactions of many law school professors and administrators, who seem to want to blame the rising indebtedness of students on the students themselves... A representative example, from this article in the Washington Post:

"A latte a day on borrowed money? It's crazy," said Erika Lim, director of career services at the [University of Seattle] law school.

Now, I am cost conscious and made the switch to drip (and honestly, yuck). But how crazy is it, really, to want to drink a good cup of coffee, even if it comes at a higher price. As consumers and adults, law students discretionary spending habits should be better respected than this. And it turns out, the cost is not so high: the article informs us that a $3/day latte habit will cost $4,150 over ten years. This is such a marginal increase to my total debt (considering my $25,000/year law school tuition habit), that it is almost offensive that a law school administrator would consider that a serious discussion of how to counteract rising debt...

But Director Kim is not alone in her sentiment. In this otherwise very good article in the National Law Journal yesterday, Joseph Harbaugh, dean of Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. has this to say:
Would-be lawyers live too comfortably while in school and fail to make the necessary sacrifices, he said, adding that a quick look at any law school parking lot proves his point.

"The students' cars are better than the faculty and staff's cars," said Harbaugh, who is also a board member of Access Group, a nonprofit provider of student loans for graduate and professional degrees.

Student loans for discretionary living expenses are capped at a certain level depending on cost-of-living in your particular locale. Here at Berkeley, I think we get about 17,000/year. That's not a lot, certainly not enough to buy a fancy car, but my point is, that's pretty irrelevant. The cost that should most concern law school administrators is the astronomical rise in tuition and fees -- the part that law school administrators can legitimately exercise some control over and the bulk of most law students debt, rather than griping about their students' discretionary spending habits.

Comments on indebtedness and solutions invited...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

armen sucks

2/01/2006 3:18 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Only if you ask nicely.

2/01/2006 4:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good commentary, Armen. Not sucky at all.

2/01/2006 7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

except it's not Armen's commentary.

2/01/2006 8:30 PM  
Blogger Adam G Partridge said...

It's hard to empathize with UC law students when they pay-thanks to tax payer subsidies- about 1/3 of what private law students pay, but I'm down with your struggle.
Also, I think looking at fridges, apartments, and inside closets would be more indicitive of the law student life rather than the car being driven. After all, those cars, in most cases I presume, were bought by people who worked before law school, although I may only be speaking for myself...(FYI: I have baking soda, 900 sqft, and clothes I've worn since high school to go with my sporty Toyoto Camry.)

2/03/2006 11:36 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Adam, our current fees are close to $24,000 per year. If any private law school is charging you $75,000 a year, I strongly suggest you transfer from Abraham Lincoln University School of Law.

Arguably, I'd say it's hard to emphatize with students at private law schools whose tuitions do not depend on the whims of the electorate or the bureaucracy du jour.

2/04/2006 12:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a 1L riddled with debt (and struggling to pay my rent); however, yes, I do spend $1.50 each and every day to buy a cup of coffee. I should be ashamed of this, the administration reminds me (indeed, the bulletin board outside of the Admissions Office reminds me of this). At the same time, however, the school turns around and asks profs not to tell students which books to buy so that they'll be forced to spend $140 on a casebook in the bookstore that they couldve gotten for $40 on-line. So, admin can take their spill-proof, Maxwell House-filled mugs and shove 'em.

2/04/2006 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciated the administrators' use of anecdotal reasoning. Even the most skilled legal professionals sleep better at night through the assuaging levity of irrational justification.

2/07/2006 4:13 PM  

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