Law Schools

New York Law School Dean Hits Legal Ed, But Hikes Class Size 30%

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Updated: New York Law School Dean Richard Matasar claimed in 2009 that law schools are “exploiting” students who accumulate large student debt but don’t succeed.

That same year, New York Law School increased the size of its first-year class by 30 percent, even as law firm hiring took a dive, the New York Times reports. The increase helped seal a stable rating on bonds used to finance a new building. “Given his scathing critiques, you might expect that during Mr. Matasar’s 11 years as dean, he has reshaped New York Law School to conform with his reformist agenda,” the Times writes. “But he hasn’t. Instead, the school seems to be benefiting from many of legal education’s assorted perversities.” Matasar announced in an email to faculty on June 28 that he will step down during the upcoing academic year, the National Law Journal reported earlier this month.

The story says law schools, on the whole, have been able to increase tuition at a rate four times faster than colleges. From 1989 to 2009, college tuition increased 71 percent while law school tuition jumped 317 percent. Many law schools are so profitable that they are required to send as much as 30 percent of their revenue to affiliated universities.

The story examines New York Law School, not to be confused with New York University School of Law, as an example. New York Law School is ranked in the bottom third of law schools, but it charges $47,800 a year in tuition and fees, more than Harvard. It reported a median starting salary for its graduates that equaled that of the best law schools, even though most of its graduates find work at less than half the amount, the story alleges.

The Times asked Matasar about the contradiction between his public stands and his law school’s business model. “The answer is that we exist in a market,” he answered through a spokesperson. “When there is demand for education, we, like other law schools, respond.” He added that he was surprised in 2009 when more students than expected accepted invitations to attend NYLS. And more specific salary data, he said, is posted on the school’s website. Only 26 percent of the school’s 2010 grads reported their salaries, the story points out.

Another post details Matasar’s subsequent response to the Times article.

Prior coverage: “Law School ‘Wonderland’ Stats Show 93% of Grads Employed, Despite 15K BigLaw Job Cuts” “Law School Is Not an Entitlement Program, Dean Says”

Last updated July 21 to note Matasar’s prior resignation announcement.

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