Greedy law schools taught jobless grads too well

March 16, 2012

By Reynolds Holding
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Greedy law schools may have taught their jobless graduates a little too well. Some disgruntled lawyers are suing their alma maters for exaggerating employment prospects. That seems fitting for a litigious lot with buyers’ remorse over a $120,000 education. The lousy job market isn’t the schools’ fault, but training these cheeky legal eagles to spread their wings may be.

On the surface, the suits seem a stretch. Scores of graduates from New York Law, Michigan’s Thomas M. Cooley Law and other lower-tier schools want refunds because they didn’t get the legal jobs they were supposedly promised. They cite school statistics touting more than 90 percent employment rates for recent graduates. The schools stress that the figures, while essentially accurate, guarantee nothing, and lawyers should have known the job market was shaky.

The problem is that many schools do play fast and loose. They typically include non-legal, part-time and temporary work in employment numbers while hiring graduates themselves or paying law firms to do so. A whopping 59 of 143 law schools in the 2012 U.S. News and World Report rankings somehow reported more than 90 percent employment for recent graduates.

Even if prospective students don’t rely on those numbers, the rankings are highly influential. And employment rates account for almost one-fifth of a school’s rank. If the rates are unreliable, then so is a widely-used criterion for deciding where to apply.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the schools have committed fraud. But Villanova University and the University of Illinois have acknowledged giving inaccurate information to U.S. News in the past, and other institutions have been accused of gaming the ranking system with false data.

If the accusations are true, the schools might face criminal as well as civil liability. In a recent article, Emory University law professors outline a compelling case for charging deceptive law schools with fraud, conspiracy, racketeering and making false statements.

That may seem far-fetched. But with tuition approaching $50,000 a year, law deans under intense pressure to lure students and members of Congress slamming their dodgy employment data, the schools are a tempting target. If they’re not careful, they may find disappointed graduates to be the least of their worries.

Comments

This sounds fitting to me. The schools, both ‘for profit’ and ‘non profit’ alike should be investigated for hokesterism. They are all ‘Diploma Mills’ IMHO. During my long career I and my colleagues used to go to campuses during the spring hiring season and interviewed upcoming graduates. We were shocked to see that only about 10% were suitable for ‘real’ interviews at our offices. The rest were clueless dolts who we labeled as ‘ninety percenters’. Most couldn’t even explain why they were there for the interview let alone anything about their subjects of study. It was pathetic. Most should not have taken the particular major (electrical engineering or software design in our case). I believe this a flaw of our high schools. They should have courses in ‘Life Science’ where they learn about different careers, take tests to see what they are suitable for (like Myers-Briggs and 16PF), how to hunt for jobs, and how finances work. Many, if not most, of these graduates should not have gone to university but would have been better off taking Community College courses in useful subjects like auto repair, air conditioner repair, hairdressing, medical technician, etc. They wasted their time and money (and are often in debt) to get a degree for which there are either no jobs or for which they are not suited by temperament. The whole pitch for everyone to get a college degree is a hoax mythology. The country ends up with lots of people with degrees who can’t do anything useful and are in debt. And many have taken total ‘butt wipe’ degrees for things like ‘tree hugging and social consciousness’ etc. And we constantly read of ones who took such an undergraduate degree, couldn’t get a job, so then went on running up more debts getting a similar graduate degree. I think it’s all a sickening fraud.

Posted by Eric93 | Report as abusive
 

Audit of almost any college’s records would unearth willful negligence, if not outright fraud, in employment statistics reported. Even beyond counting part-timers and occasionals and graduates working at minimum wage, many schools’ statistics are based on “those students/graduates who reported.” So the stats are based only on those who wanted to tell the school what and how well they are doing. It’s well known to social statisticians that those who are back living with their parents or are starving in a flat with 6 roommates are not eager to tell others – including the school – how badly life is going. It’s embarassing and even potentially deleterious to future networking. So the stats are based on self-selected self-reporting, which has no validity and which is silently permitted and even encouraged by administration in order to ‘up the numbers’. I ought to know, as I worked in association with the admissions/alumni office at a state university.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive
 

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