Sunday, March 22, 2015

No Match Day For Law Students

Another year, another Match Day has come and gone for our nation's medical students. This is the moment every medical student looks forward to as he or she powers through another sleepless night of study and clinical rotation. The exhausting work all becomes worthwhile when the soon-to-be physicians are told where they are going to be working for the next several years. Cheers erupt. Champagne, or beer, is consumed. Everybody gets a slap on the back as the end to medical school is finally in sight.

Meanwhile, our professional colleagues over at the law school next door don't get quite the same exaltation. Many of them will not have a job when they finish school in just a few short months. In fact, quite a few were probably deceived by their own schools in the beginning when they advertised the job placement success rate of their graduates.

The U.S. News and World Report has ranked law schools for years. One of the criteria is how many of the graduates have jobs after graduation. The definition of jobs has proved to be slippery. At first, the schools counted any jobs held by their graduates as a success, whether it was negotiating international contracts for a Fortune 500 company or slinging hamburgers at McDonald's. Once that deception was discovered, the magazine tightened up eligibility so that only jobs requiring a law degree were counted. This dropped the employment rate of 2011 law school graduates to a shockingly low number of 55%.

Now another law school trick has been uncovered. Many students are still not able to find jobs that use their expensive degrees. So the schools are paying employers to hire their graduates. The schools subsidize the employers up to $4,000 to hire their students for one year, which conveniently falls within the guidelines of meaningful job placement of nine months that the magazine uses. This helps both the students pay off their school loans and increases the status of the school in that precious rankings list. News of this manipulation has caused the the American Bar Association and U.S. News to deemphasize jobs that the school purchased for their graduates.

How big of an affect will this new criteria have? At some schools, it will make a huge material difference. George Washington University law school reported that only 469 graduates of 603 students from 2013 had a job requiring a law degree nine months after graduation. In other words, over twenty percent of their students couldn't find a job that utilized their expensive degrees at least nine months afterwards. Horrible numbers for any job. However now we know that 88 of those jobs the students held were actually sponsored by the school. So the under employment rate for GW law school graduates is in reality almost 37%. If a school advertised that 37% of their graduates won't be able to find a meaningful job after graduation, do you think anybody will apply there?

What's worse, GW subsidized the employers $1.8 million to hire their graduates for one year. Guess who has to pay that money? Not the school or their faculty. That money is surely factored into the expensive law school tuition of the students who are still in the classrooms. These kids are heading towards a brick wall at graduation while paying to take care of older students who have already hit that unemployment wall.

George Washington University isn't the only law school to manipulate its numbers. Similarly, The College of William and Mary and Emory University also pay for the jobs of about 25% of their recent graduates. W&M used $814,000 last year to subsidize their students' jobs.

Of course the schools defend their actions in this deception. As the dean of GW law school, Blake Morant, puts it, "I tend to look at the program as back-end financial aid." It's a pathetic aid package being paid for on the backs of their new students.

So for all the medical students who have their new jobs all lined up starting in July, congratulations to all of you. Whether you got your first, second, third, or lower choice location, at least all of you will have a job following graduation. Your buddies who went into law school can only look at you enviously as they pour another Venti caramel latte behind the counter at Starbucks.

1 comment:

  1. Very insightful comments here. The jobs-after-graduation statistics always looked shady to me when I was in school, and now I understand why. At the very least, let's hope there's a bit more transparency in the way schools operate even if the job market is bad.