Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Would We Really Downsize?

I understand this is something people disagree about but increasingly the exploitation of athletes by colleges is unacceptable to many. Football is the worst. In basketball and baseball, the athletes can, if qualified, sell their labor to the higher bidder. In football because of the wink and a nod relationship between the NCAA, the NFL and the NFLPA football players are at the mercy of colleges. These colleges pay their coaches millions while the labor they use to generate those salaries do not actually receive scholarships that pay the full cost of their time in school. I love college football but am uncomfortable with my complicity, as a fan, in the cycle.

It’s a stretch but I see similarities to some law students and their future clients. What is the connection? It has been reported that many law schools have experienced decreased enrollments. In the case of Florida I think it is over 9%. (I use Florida only as an example here because the data indicate there are many similarly situated law schools.) Yet this year Florida admitted 450 students which was close to a record. What worries me is the possibility that even huge declines in application wou have little or no impact on admissions because of the funding each student represents

The problem is that we treat as fixed by the number the seats and size of the faculty. This seems backwards. Shouldn't the number admitted be a function of the number of qualified applicants and their willingness to pay back, in terms of public service or some positive externality, the huge investment taxpayers are required to make? Instead, law schools need to fill seats (in our case to justify a $20 million classroom building that is empty much of Thursday and Friday) to generate funding. Maintaining enrollments becomes the end and students, like the players, become the means.

Many college football players do not graduate and some leave the game battered. In law school it is a bit different. The grading curves most law schools have and the reluctance of faculty to be candid mean that, unlike 25 years ago, nearly all graduate. (In fact, at my school the concept of “academic probation” is practically obsolete.) In both cases, after being used to generate funding for the three years the students are sent off. I do not know what becomes of the football players after two or three years of college. I do know what becomes of the law students and luckily their plight is usually a better one. Most become attorneys, a large percentage (20% in our case) after initially failing the bar exam. Some, even if they earn a living, though, become attorneys to whom their professors, if they are candid, would not refer a member of his or her family or a distant friend. In the interest of maintaining enrollments and funding, however, they do refer the rest of the world to these very same attorneys. Both students and future clients become means to the end of maintaining the status quo.

In response to an earlier draft of this post, Anthony Ciolli suggested reading “In his own defense Series: THE $40 LAWYER.” It’s a terrific piece of journalism.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home