ABA task force calls for more debt counseling, innovation

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The report released Friday by the American Bar Association Task Force on the Financing of Legal Education calls for enhanced law student debt counseling, wider collection and publication of law school financial data, and innovation at law schools to lower costs for students while maintaining sound educational programs.

Growing student debt is a concern for all graduates of higher education, and the task force found that the roughly 2 percent default rate on student loans for law school grads is lower than the default rate for bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and other degrees. But still, there is not much data out there from law schools on their revenue and expenditures as well as the amount and percentage of financial aid distributed based on need or merit.

The task force noted that there have been increases in student tuition at law schools over the years amid declining class sizes, but the price increases have been slowing. Tuition discounts have been growing and law schools are devoting more funds to scholarships. It appears, based on task force research, that more scholarships are given out based on merit than on need.

The task force also wants law schools to provide debt counseling services that exceed those now required by the U.S. Department of Education. It urged the ABA’s accrediting body to encourage experimentation at law schools to reduce cost and improve value.

The 55-page report is available online. A vote on adoption of the task force recommendations is planned for the next ABA House of Delegates meeting Aug. 3-4 in Chicago.

The task force was formed in 2014 upon the recommendation of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education, led by former Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard.

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