Saturday, November 18, 2006

The LL.M. program as cash cow

Okay, Jeff Harrison, your latest assault on taxpayer-subsidized LL.M. programs has prodded me into a response. Herewith a short item on the proper pricing of LL.M. programs.

Discriminatory pricing of tuition is a prominent feature of the academic landscape. The most effective practitioners are elite institutions with deep war chests known more politely as scholarship funds. The process of awarding scholarships is simply academia's version of awarding sharp discounts for some, but not for all.

In other words, we academics countenance the practice of charging different customers different prices for the same product. Indeed, the practice of ranking universities encourages universities to engage in price discrimination and rewards the most successful universities by enabling them to be more effective when they do engage in price discrimination.

A fortiori, it must be acceptable to discriminate according to students' ability and willingness to pay for different "products." Surely the market for the J.D. is distinct from the market for the LL.M.

Indeed, I would go further. A responsibly managed public law school with a LL.M. program has the obligation to charge market-based rather than state-subsidized tuition rates. Revenues from the LL.M. program are supposed to cross-subsidize other law school operations. Whether they are foreign lawyers, domestic specialists, or aspiring academics, LL.M. candidates can, will, and should pay full freight. In turn, a law school may appropriately use LL.M. revenues to finance any other interest, including a few scholarships for J.D. candidates.

GatorTo be sure, in the first years of a nascent LL.M. program, a law school might persuade itself (and its university) that some discount is needed to establish a beachhead in the highly competitive market for LL.M. candidates. But the University of Florida's LL.M. program in tax is neither new nor obscure. It might well be the most prestigious program of its kind. As the program describes itself:
For over 30 years, the University of Florida Graduate Tax Program has helped prepare students for careers in tax law. Today, the program is widely recognized by tax scholars and practitioners nationwide as one of the nation's leading programs for the advanced study of tax law
Translation: This is precisely the sort of program that can and should charge premium tuition.

You don't need to read Agricultural Law to know this bit of agrarian wisdom: When you have a cash cow, get milking.


Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Now that is what I call applying a regulated industries approach. I can't wait for your idea to be adopted at UF

11/18/2006 9:31 AM  

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