N.Y.L.S. is ranked in the bottom third of all law schools in the country, but with tuition and fees now set at $47,800 a year, it charges more than Harvard. It increased the size of the class that arrived in the fall of 2009 by an astounding 30 percent, even as hiring in the legal profession imploded. It reported in the most recent US News & World Report rankings that the median starting salary of its graduates was the same as for those of the best schools in the nation — even though most of its graduates, in fact, find work at less than half that amount.
N.Y.L.S. has participated in another national law school trend: the growth in the number of enrollees. Last year, law schools across the country matriculated 49,700 students, according to the Law School Admission Council, the largest number in history, and 7,000 more students than in 2001. N.Y.L.S. grew at an even faster clip. In 2000, the year Mr. Matasar took over, the school had a total of 1,326 full- and-part-time students. By 2009, the figure had risen to 1,596.
From 1989 to 2009, when college tuition rose by 71 percent, law school tuition shot up 317 percent.
There are many reasons for this ever-climbing sticker price, but the most bizarre comes courtesy of the highly influential US News rankings. Part of the US News algorithm is a figure called expenditures per student, which is essentially the sum that a school spends on teacher salaries, libraries and other education expenses, divided by the number of students.
Though it accounts for just 9.75 percent of the algorithm, it gives law schools a strong incentive to keep prices high. Forget about looking for cost efficiencies. The more that law schools charge their students, and the more they spend to educate them, the better they fare in the US News rankings.
AND, bottom line salary figures for NYLS:
“In these materials and in our conversations with students and applicants,” he wrote, “we explicitly tell them that most graduates find work in small to medium firms at salaries between $35,000 and $75,000.”
AND a final quote:
“My salary,” Mr. Campos said, “is paid by the current structure, which is in many ways deceptive and unjust to a point that verges on fraud. But as a law professor, I understand that what is good for me is that the structure stay the way it is.”
***From an interview with Matasar in NLJ on 26 July 2011:
As far as experimentation, our program is quite different. We do things that lots of university-based law schools would never do. We have a program that's directed toward our bottom-graded students that helps them get across the finish line and pass the bar exam. No schools, when we started, were doing this. We require the program. We staff it differently. We just brought in 15 first-year full-time faculty to teach a consolidated legal skills program in coordination with the other first-year classes. These are not rookie people right out of law schools. These are experienced, practicing lawyers making this their full-time job. That's a skills-training move that very few university-based law schools could do because they have the university telling them everybody has to be a research faculty member.
In terms of costs, we would push the envelope as far as we could with distance learning, and we've done that, but we can't go any further than what the regime [ABA] permits. We've got proposals to move to a two-year undergraduate program with a three-year J.D. follow-on for a total of five years, but we can't do that without ABA permission. There are things we are pushing all the way to the limit as an attempt to try things that will be more radical.
At the same time, the students who currently exist at New York Law School don't want to be at a school that is the Pariah College of Law and looks so different from every other law school that they feel they are at a disadvantage.