Stanford Law tuition spikes

Last week, Stanford Law School announced that its tuition, currently $44,880, will increase by 5.75 percent for the next academic year.

This increase, announced simultaneously with a universitywide tuition rise of 3.5 percent, will allow Stanford to pay faculty more and reinstate positions that were lost during the recession, Board of Trustees President Leslie Hume told The Stanford Daily. Yale Law School Director of Public Affairs Janet Conroy said Yale Law’s tuition for next year has not yet been set, and declined to comment on the possibility of a raise.

Students at Stanford found out about the increase from their campus newspaper, not the school itself. Stanford Law School Dean Larry Kramer sent an e-mail out to students last Friday apologizing for failing to inform the students directly before word spread.

“At the outset, let me say that I’m sorry you heard about this from the Stanford Daily and the Stanford Report,” Kramer wrote. “I had intended to tell you first and didn’t realize that the Board of Trustees meeting (to approve tuition) was this week, while I was away.”

The increase comes after months of media attention over the growing cost and decreasing returns of law school. The media frenzy reached its peak with an article in The New York Times titled, “Is Law School a Losing Game?,” which portrayed an increasingly bleak employment landscape for law graduates.

Hume said Stanford Law School will experience a steeper tuition increase than the university’s other schools because it has been “under-pricing” itself in comparison to its law school peers. Financial aid will increase as well, The Stanford Daily reported, reaching $122 million by 2012.

Kramer’s e-mail to students said that Stanford has kept its tuition increases lower than other law schools for several years, but after the economy collapsed, the university was forced to implement a series of budget cuts to protect its financial aid and public service programming.

“Even after all this, we still had a gap,” he wrote in the e-mail. “While debating further solutions, we noted that Stanford’s tuition was substantially lower than that of all our peer law schools, a difference that ranged from three to 14 percent. Hence, rather than impose further cuts, we decided to close a portion of the remaining budget gap by raising tuition by $1,000 over the University’s basic increase for two years.”

He added that despite the rise in tuition, Stanford Law School would still be one of the least expensive options among top law schools.

But Sijia Cai ’11, who had been deciding between Yale, Harvard and Stanford law schools, said that after hearing about Stanford’s tuition hike, she removed the school from her list.

“I’ve been considering withdrawing from Stanford for a while now after receiving decisions — it was only the weather and the beach that kept it on my list,” she said. “But after learning about the new tuition hike, I’ve definitely crossed it off.”

Four of five Yale Law School students interviewed said that although they hope Yale does not up their tuition, they would be able to compensate either through high-salary jobs after graduation or through the school’s debt forgiveness program. The latter ensures that those making under $60,000 a year after graduation in jobs in government, public interest or nonprofit entities do not have to contribute to law school loans.

“I would be upset if Yale announced a similar hike [to Stanford], but it probably wouldn’t stop me from going here,” said Stephanie Turner LAW ’12. “I feel reasonably assured that I will be able to get a high-paying job out of law school if that is what I want to do, so taking out a few thousand dollars extra in loans, when I am already borrowing a mind-numbing amount, doesn’t seem as scary as it would be if that were not the case.”

But Christopher Hurtado SOM ’12, who is pursuing a joint degree with the Law School, said he worries that, despite Yale’s debt forgiveness program, an increase in tuition might force students to choose more high-paying jobs out of law school and forgo careers in the public sector.

All five students agreed that an increase in Yale Law’s tuition would likely not affect the number of people who apply to the school, as Yale is the top school in the country and known for its high employment rates after graduation. Kelly Voight, the executive director of the Yale Law School Career Development Office, told the News in January that employment statistics have remained constant despite the recession. In 2009, roughly 70 percent of the graduating class secured a clerkship or work at a law firm.

“The reality is that it probably wouldn’t affect how many people apply,” Hurtado said. “Current students would be the more vocal people. I think that law school admission numbers have proven almost perversely insulated from the realities of the economic and the legal market, and Yale is very fortunate to be largely shielded from that.”

Yale Law School tuition for the 2010-’11 school year is $48,500.

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