Law Schools

Oregon Chief District Judge Blasts High Cost of Legal Ed


The chief judge for the U.S. District Court of Oregon, used some opinion space to criticize higher education, especially law schools, for saddling graduates with oppressive debt.

Details of a March 5 opinion by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken were reported in an article following up on an Oregonian series featuring the state of legal education.

“Students with advanced degrees, specifically juris doctorates, are facing a quagmire,” Aiken wrote in the opinion (PDF). “Attending law school was a guaranteed way to ensure financial stability. For current graduates, however, this is no longer true, due in large part to the high cost of law school tuition.”

The Oregonian notes that graduates borrow $100,000 or more to cover legal ed costs, then another $15,000 for bar review. And these graduates are competing for fewer jobs.

Aiken’s comments came in the case of Michael Hedlund, who has fought unsuccessfully for nine years to get some or all of his law school debt legally discharged. Aiken didn’t give him the relief he sought. Another court had allowed Hedlund to discharge $50,000 of his $85,000 debt. But Aiken reversed. Hedlund is now appealing to the 9th Circuit, the Oregonian notes.

In her opinion, Aiken predicts the courts will see many more similar cases.

“The current higher education system has become untenable and unsustainable; as a result, increasing numbers of students will be forced to file for bankruptcy,” Aiken wrote. “As such, the student loan issue is one that extends beyond the outcome of this decision and will continue unabated until it is addressed at a systemic level.”

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