Professors promote refunds for dropout law students

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At law schools across the country, first-year students invest their time and money in hopes of finding a fulfilling career in law. What many of those law students discover during their first year just how difficult law school can be.

Two Yale University law professors, Ian Ayers and Akhil Reed Amar, have proposed a solution for students struggling: give these first-year students back half of their tuition money to drop out.

In their recent article for online magazine, the plan’s creators claimed offering students half their tuition back after dropping out of law school after one year would create a fairer environment, where both the school and student have made an investment and allows students to pay off federal student loams. They also said law schools following that plan would raise their standards and admit students less likely to fail.

“The idea is to mark the end of the first year, after students have received their grades, as a salient decision-making point,” Ayers and Amar said in the article. “At that time, students will have learned more about their legal abilities and inclinations.”

Ayers and Amar also claimed this plan will help reduce the number of unemployed law school graduates struggling to pay off debt.

The plan has received some criticism because it could potentially provide an incentive for students to drop out who may not need to. Sean Reilly, assistant dean of admissions at Marquette Law School, said this would not be encouraged if the plan were in place at MU.

“We would not encourage satisfactory performing students to drop out of law school,” reilly said.

The ability to receive half of tuition back upon dropping out provides a new option for students struggling to make a decision about whether or not to attend law school.

Kathleen Ford, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that as a potential law student, she did not feel the proposal would have too much of an effect on committed students. She added that if students have already taken time to prepare for law school, they should be prepared for the academic rigor.

“You have prep class for the LSAT, you have the LSAT, you have prep class for law school and much more,” Ford said. “If the student does drop out after the first year, I imagine the law school will be better off without them because they may not have been completely committed in the first place.”

Other students claim the decreased financial risk for students has more pros than cons.

Amanda Diedrich, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences and prospective law student, said the proposal was a good idea for students who feared having a large amount of debt for an education they may not use.

“I like the idea of the proposal since law school is very expensive and it gives a student who is not doing well the opportunity to not be at a complete loss of their money,” she said. “ I am not sure if it would motivate students to do as well as they could, though, since they would not be at quite the financial loss if they failed to succeed.”

Diedrich agreed with the Yale professors’ idea that students who would not be successful law students could be separated from those who will.

“At the same time, it might weed students out who potentially might not be successful as lawyers because they would take less of a financial hit to drop out,” she said.