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Which Schools Have Shrinking Class Sizes? Does it Mean Anything?

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 18, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Schools are cutting class sizes!

Some have shed as much as 66.2 percent of their incoming classes!

The law school bubble has burst!

Maybe. Enrollment numbers are certainly down from their obscene peak in the height of the recession, but we're willing to bet that the market for a JD will recover in the near-future, hopefully after a few diploma mills go belly-up, saving a few thousand unfortunate souls from taking on six-figure debt for a degree from a non-entity.

That being said, when someone goes through the effort of counting heads and ranking the schools that are bloodletting the most, we'd be remiss (and boring) if we did not witness the carnage.

National Jurist Counts Rolling Heads

Today's tallying of troubled law schools comes from the National Jurist, which measured enrollment drops since 2010-2011. The highlights include an average decline of 99 students per school, eighteen schools with declining numbers, and sixteen with increased enrollment.

Here are the top five:

  1. University of La Verne -66.2%
  2. Cooley Law School -40.6%
  3. Catholic University -39.5%
  4. New York Law School -38.7%
  5. University of Dayton -38.5%

Yeah, those aren't exactly the Ivies, are they? La Verne is only semi-accredited (provisional, to be exact), Cooley is a running joke that sponsors a baseball stadium and opens fast-food franchise campuses, and NYLS? As NJ noted in their own article, The New York Times eviscerated that school's practices just a few years ago.

None of these are particularly surprising. That being said, what exactly does a decline in enrollment signify?

Context: Self-Correcting Market

We did our own little study of ABA accredited institutions' system-wide enrollment numbers back in December. What'd we find?

Schools packed the students in during the recession, increasing enrollment to a peak of 52,488 in 2010-2011. NJ's measuring of a decline from that year basically picks the highest possible data point, which makes the declining numbers seem more drastic than they actually are. Students were flocking to grad schools to avoid the terrible job market, and schools gladly accepted the revenue.

That being said, 2013-2014 did have a drastic decline, to the lowest numbers in four decades.

Selective Stats?

Another issue with NJ's stats, besides the selective endpoints, are the measures chosen. The article notes that schools shed an average of 99 students per, but what does the average come out to when outlier diploma-mills, like Cooley (which dropped 1,597 or 40.6 percent) are taken out? Maybe try a median decline or measure the standard deviation? Advanced statistics, anyone?

Bottom Line

Some schools are cutting seats because they can't fill them. Others are doing so in order to maintain their admissions numbers, ranking, and reputations. Still others, sixteen per the NJ, are increasing class sizes to keep up revenue. System-wide, there is a decline in enrollment, but if it's not already at rock-bottom, it's certainly close.

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