Is there a right to higher education?

In California, as all over the country, state support for higher education is decreasing.  For example, in 2001, 70% of a state law school’s operation’s costs were covered; in 2010, such funds covered only 30%.  In 1965, my enrollment costs were in the hundreds of dollars; in 1991, tuition and fees for the academic year were a bit more than $3,000; and today, the number is close to $45,000 … PER ACADEMIC YEAR. All states are in similar positions.

And on the federal level, Congress is considering eliminating the student loan program! If that does happen, higher education will truly be only for the rich and perhaps truly gifted who may be eligible for scholarship.

No wonder students have to borrow money to go to school. I’m surprised that the average debt on graduation is as low as it is; the last figure I read was about $100,000.

From the seller’s perspective, i.e., the law schools, one must ask why should they lower tuition? My alma mater recently sent me a letter that stated their next entry class of 321 students comes from an applicant pool of more than 7,000! Almost 25 to 1! With demand like that, I wouldn’t lower my price, either.

But, with such high cost of entry, graduates and students are now asking whether the schools have an obligation to assure their employment after college … In fact, several lawsuits have already been filed, and more to come, asking this very question. As I wrote in an earlier blog, the schools are not managing students’ expectations very well.

The Dean of my alma mater, a top tier school, said at graduation this year that he is sad to say that last year’s class still has a considerable number of unemployed students … and that this year’s graduating class will likewise find a tough employment market. Not only are many, a rather large percentage, unemployed, they also lack the practical knowledge and skills to open their own law practice. This is a skill the law schools do not even feign to teach. It is beyond their "professional standing."

Under these circumstances, perhaps schools need to post a consumer warning on each application: Caution: Attending Law School May Be Hazardous To Your Pocketbook. There is no guarantee that you will be gainfully employed for your ability to practice law. And, in fact, disclosing you have a law degree may be deleterious for other employment. The prospective employer may worry that you’re just hanging around, waiting for a legal position to open up, or that you are too smart for the job under consideration.

Isn’t that a double whammy!?

Is higher education a right? No. Should it be? Perhaps. But three things are clear:

  • Without good lawyers, society as we know it is at risk.
  • Without universal education (paid for by the state and federal government), our people will lack the skills needed to be an informed electorate needed for a free country
  • Without a quality, universal education system in this country, we are doomed to move away from the dream and vision of our forefathers, the vision that made us so different and so much better than contemporaries … and our place in history will be in jeopardy

Politicians need to take note: The teaching of our youth, even through college, is our primary responsibility and should not be compromised. Fighting war cost trillions! Educating our young cost millions! The former is irrelevant if the latter is left untended.


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