It was announced this week that the University of Akron expects to increase its tuition by six percent and then freeze it for incoming law school students in the fall, according to The Akron Beacon Journal Online. Trustees will be presented with the plan in March.
The plan would have in-state law students paying $21,375 per year to go along with $1,500 in fees for their entire legal education. Law students from outside the state would pay just $50 more each semester than students living in the state.
“Many law schools have shrunk their programs, or lowered their admission standards, or cut their staffs. We’ve chosen to focus on what we believe will help our students succeed. They still need a great education, and reasonable priced, so they don’t suffer under the weight of tremendous debt. We are confronting a situation where we know that we need to act very proactively and we think this is a sound financial decision for the students and the law school,” said interim law school dean Elizabeth Reilly.
Reilly said that applications at the school hit 1,446 for the coming fall semester, which is a 40 percent drop from the school’s 10-year high in 2004. In 2003-2004, law school tuition was $11,076 for in-state students who went to school full-time. The tuition last fall was $23,084, which is a 108 percent increase.
“As far as we know, this combination of changes is a first,” Reilly said in an interview with The National Law Journal. “We’ve seen schools that have done things to reduce tuition, but having a tuition freeze and changing to in-state only tuition is unique. We know that money is a big issue for new attorneys, and we’re trying to be responsible to our students. It really felt like the right thing to do.”
The university said that the number of students who enrolled in fall of 2012 dropped by 4.6 percent, which is the smallest decrease in Ohio. The average debt for the school’s law grads is $66,283. That number can be compared to $77,640 from other public universities and $116,842 at private law schools.
Law students who have already enrolled at the school will see a six percent increase in the fall. Their tuition has not been frozen yet.
“I think it’s something we need to continue to talk about,” Reilly said.
Lauri Thorpe, the law school’s assistant dean, said, “Some fees may remain the same, some fees may be increased by a certain dollar amount, some fees may be increased by a percentage.”