Akron Law addresses issue of merit-based scholarship renewals07/12/2013
A recent article in the national media suggested our law school engaged in questionable practices with respect to scholarship renewals. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Here are the facts: For years (since at least 2007) we have been fully transparent about the likelihood and difficulty of maintaining our merit scholarships in all our letters to students and on our website (see https://www.uakron.edu/law/admissions/finaid/retention.dot). Widespread first-year scholarships plus relatively low tuition ($23,583 full-time tuition for 2013-14) serve our mission of keeping law school accessible and affordable. We have chosen to base continuing merit scholarships on strong performance in law school rather than on entering credentials. This strategy enables us to attract excellent students, keep law school affordable, and treat our continuing students more equitably. Our debt load upon graduation reflects this commitment: our students’ average debt is lower than 93% of all law schools and 84% of public law schools.
We have worked hard over the years to institute a scholarship program that enhances access to legal education for those who might not otherwise be able pursue a law degree. While our merit scholarship renewal requirements have been stringent, we have always been fully transparent about the requirements. We include information about the likelihood of renewal in all of our scholarship-related letters and on our website. For scholarship retention data, see:
All of our required consumer information (and some non-required consumer information) is here:
All of this is publicly available.
And since 2007, well ahead of any ABA requirements, we have specifically identified the percentage of scholarship renewals in materials we send to admitted students. If you check the Law School Transparency website, you will see an unblemished record for the 2011 report. We provide all required information and much more. [An earlier version of their report shows that we had one bad mark for failure to file a required report, but we actually filed it that day after they did their survey, well before their earlier report ever appeared.]
It is important to evaluate any single ranking or other piece of information in the larger context. For us, the bottom line is enhancing access to legal education. We do that through our scholarship program and through our unusually low tuition. As a result of these efforts, our graduates have among the lowest average debt levels in the country at graduation. The class of 2012 averaged $66,283 in debt at graduation (see http://www.uakron.edu/law/admissions/finaid/borrowing.dot), which was lower than the average debt at graduation at 93% of all other American law schools, 84% of American public law schools, and all other Ohio law schools.
Relevant debt data from the class of 2012 is summarized below (Source: 2012-2013 ABA Takeoff Report, Table J-8).
Avg. Debt at Graduation among Private American Law Schools: $122,159
Avg. Debt at Graduation among Public American Law Schools: $84,600
Overall Average (Unweighted): $106,836
Average debt at graduation among Ohio law schools
The University of Akron School of Law: $66,283
Cleveland State University, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law: $82,269
University of Cincinnati School of Law: $84,140
The University of Toledo School of Law: $95,375
Ohio Northern University, Pettit College of Law: $97,968
The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law: $98,674
University of Dayton School of Law: $118,333
Case Western Reserve University School of Law: $118,806
Capital University School of Law: $120,471
Overall Average (Unweighted): $98,035
It is also important to understand that we a have a tiered renewal system. In the 2010 through 2012 entering classes, we allowed for partial renewal, so another 15% of the 2011 entering class renewed 50% of their scholarship going into their second year of law school.
For the 2013 entering class, we have lowered the scholarship renewal standard to an unprecedented level. Those entering law school in fall 2013 will need to maintain a 2.90 GPA (roughly the top third of the class) in order to continue 100% of their scholarships to the next year of law school. Since the scholarships we offer are merit-based, we believe that in order to renew scholarships, scholarship recipients must demonstrate merit. The failure to require a significant demonstration of merit would create equity issues because students who received scholarships as entering students and then earned very low grades would end up sitting in class alongside students who did not receive scholarships as entering students and ended up earning very high grades.
Under our approach, approximately 2/3 of entering students receive scholarships. A substantial number of those students necessarily will not be in the top of the class, but the scholarships give them the opportunity to enter law school and demonstrate their ability. Even with widespread loss of scholarships, our low tuition means that our graduates still average among the least student debt upon graduation of all law schools in the country.