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The average debt of a University of Iowa Law graduate is $95,574. Drake Law grads are saddled with an average of $106,368, reports the Des Moines Register.
What's Iowa's solution to helping these graduates with their debt? Cutting the bar exam for in-state graduates, obviously!
In today's episode of people trying to fix law school but not looking at the actual problem, the Iowa Supreme Court is considering a proposal to drop the bar passage requirement for in-state graduates, and to adopt the Uniform Bar Exam for out-of-state graduates.
The UBE has its pros and cons. It doesn't test state-specific law, though Iowa apparently did away with state-specific bar questions years ago. And on the bright side, it allows those who pass the UBE in any of the 14 participating jurisdictions to practice in any of the other states.
No bar exam means in-state grads would have no incentive to leave, while the UBE means more lawyers are free to come into the state. It's great for the state bar.
Does it Help The Graduates?
But how does this help recent grads, other than the 6 percent who failed the Iowa bar exam?
Debt. The test, bar prep class, and living expenses during the post-graduation, pre-swearing in period that stretches from May to September, all cost money. The proposal estimates this amount to be as much as $29,000.
And that's a load of crap. Speaking from personal, recent-grad experience, it didn't cost anywhere near that much in Southern California. And we had to wait until December before we got the yay/nay on passage.
A bar prep class is a few thousand dollars. The tests probably cost another $2,000 or so. Couch surf with family and friends for the four or five months and you'll probably be out roughly $6,000 or $7,000 tops, assuming you aren't working part-time in the interim.
That's a significant chunk of cash, and it would probably help the in-state grads to skip the expense, plus the months of waiting for a license, but they owe $100,000. Another $6,000 is nothing compared to the bloated cost of attendance at either of the two local schools.
Does it Help the Schools?
Ah ha. There it is. We're with Elie at Above the Law, who sniffs out the conspiracy:
"You want to incentivize students to remain in-state for law school during a highly competitive market for law applications? Then you follow Wisconsin's path and offer to ignore your own bar exam if people would just please, please, please go to an in-state school."
If you're an Iowan, you can stay local (knowing that you'll never be part of that 6 percent who fail the bar), or you can go out-of-state, likely pay higher tuition, and risk bar failure.
Does it Help Everybody?
Students save a few thousand dollars, stress, and nearly five months of waiting. Schools get the "no bar" marketing fodder. And the state makes it easier to keep grads in state, and attract other UBE grads.
It's win-win-win (except for the clients represented by someone who would've failed the bar), but don't say it's for the kids. Your modest tuition decrease from December was much closer to a solution to their debt problems than the milk money recent graduates will save here.
The Iowa proposal: yay or nay? Tweet us @FindLawLP.