More Law School Faculty to Love…and Pay For

Sounds pretty good, right? A lower faculty-to-student ratio and improved faculty scholarship. But all that comes at a price — one paid by law students in the form of higher tuition. According to a recent National Jurist postpreviewing a study about to be released later this month, “the average law school increased its faculty size by 40 percent over the past 10 years.”

“This increase in staffing accounts for 48 percent of the tuition increase from 1998 to 2008, the study shows. Tuition increased by 74percent at private schools and a 102 percent at public institutions from 1998 to 2008.”

The National Jurist reports that “the dramatic increases are related to two things — an increased need for specialization and the U.S. News & World Report rankings of law schools.” William Henderson, a law professor at Indiana University Mauer School of Law said, “Law schools tend to believe that their faculty reputation is driven by scholarship and they are very interested in U.S. News.” He suggests that “Lowering your faculty-to-student ratio improves your [U.S. News] ranking and increases time for scholarship.”

Some stats to note:

• Professors are spending less time in the classroom; the typical teaching load has dropped from five courses a few generations ago to three courses today.

• From 1998 until 2008, the number of law faculty at 195 ABA-accredited law schools grew from 12,200 to 17,080 — a 40 percent increase. A subset of that total, the number of deans, librarians and other full-time administrators who teach more than tripled — from 528 to 1,059.

• While part of this increase was in part-time faculty, that category grew at a lower pace— 33 percent — than full-time faculty.

• All of this has lowered the average student-to-faculty ratio from 18.5-to-1 in 1998 to 14.9-to-1 in 2008. It was an estimated 25.5-to-1 in 1988 and 29-to-1 in 1978. In other words, there are twice as many law professors per student today as there were 30 years ago.

So, is this too much of a good thing or is increased faculty size making legal education better?

Hear more about the factors that affect where you want to go to law school in our podcast “Choosing the Right Law School” and be sure to check out our podcast “Financing Your JD: How to Pay for Law School” for more information on this topic.