April 2018 • Volume 106 • Number 4 • Page 10
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NIU law school lowers out-of-state tuition to in-state rate
The Northern Illinois University College of Law hopes the move will result in a more diverse and competitive applicant pool.
As law school admissions decline and the job market for attorneys shrinks, some law schools have been forced to shut their doors. In June 2017, Whittier Law School in California announced that it would shut down this spring (https://usat.ly/2t2aGCc). Closer to home, Valparaiso University's law school stopped admitting new students this year (http://bit.ly/2FHFr5i).
How can law schools combat this trend? Northern Illinois University College of Law has decided to sweeten its value proposition by lowering the tuition for out-of-state students. As the ABA Journal reported recently, they'll now pay what in-state students pay (http://bit.ly/2BUkfdJ). NIU is already charging the same tuition for in- and out-of-state students at its graduate and undergraduate schools.
Mark Cordes, the interim dean of NIU's College of Law, says that the school's applicant pool already has increased over the last two years. The move to eliminate out of state tuition should accelerate this trend, he says.
The tuition cut has three main goals. First, school authorities hope to modestly increase enrollment. Second, they expect it to increase the average LSAT and GPA scores of applicants. Third, they think it will help maintain, and perhaps increase, diversity among the student base.
Law school following the university's lead
The ability to be more selective is not designed to increase bar passage rates, Cordes says. NIU's pass rate is already good. Eighty-four percent of first-time takers passed the July 2017 exam, and the school has exceeded the state average bar passage rate for the last two years. Cordes says that the school has programs designed to prepare students for the bar exam, which allows the school to continue to improve that number.
Dean Cordes is unsure whether the University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University, the state's two other public law schools, are following suit with NIU. As for NIU's move, the trigger was the rest of the university's move to change to a one size fits all tuition model. Before that, it was not on the law school's radar at all, he says.
The school conducted an in-depth analysis before making the move. It considered how revenues would compare to those under the old model. It studied other, similar programs over the last five years. Ultimately, it made sense to treat the law school's tuition model like the rest of the university, Cordes says.
Law school still launches a good career for many students, he says. If out-of-staters are interested in working the Chicago job market, NIU is a great, affordable option not far from the city.