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March 27, 2012

Law tuition 2012-13

by dan rodriguez

As we all know, the legal market is in the midst of extraordinary change and the present challenges facing our students –  as with all law students – are considerable.  Since 2008, the supply of law-related jobs has declined sharply and the speed of recovery remains slow and uncertain.  To be sure, Northwestern provides a first-rate legal education and our graduates are much in demand; we remain a worthwhile investment by any credible measure.  Yet, we need to be mindful of the ways in which the current legal economy affects our current and prospective students.

For decades, tuition has increased steadily at a rate higher than inflation at our law school and at nearly every top law school.  Although our rates of increase have been similar to those of our private law school peers, and a good deal lower than the top public law schools, much attention appropriately is being given to the rising cost of legal education and the growing student debt levels of law school graduates nationally.

In order to begin to begin to address this situation in a meaningful way, I am writing to let you know that we are limiting our tuition increase for the 2012-13 academic year to 3%, our smallest percentage tuition increase in at least the past 40 years, if not our entire history.  This rate also coincides closely with current and recent measures of inflation.

This is no panacea, of course.  We are well aware that this first step makes only incremental changes on the significant historical increases in law school tuition at Northwestern and elsewhere.  I am committed to address in manifest and meaningful ways the rising cost of legal education and corresponding burdens of student indebtedness.  Limiting tuition increases is one step; controlling law school costs is another; and looking to our Northwestern friends in the private sector to support the Law School, even in the midst of current economic difficulties will need to be at the center of this strategy.  Northwestern Law School has been a leader in so many respects.  The time has come for us to be an innovative leader in addressing the challenges of the new legal economy.

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