But the sputtering economy and the cost of law school has taken its toll on other law programs across the country. Declining enrollments have been seen across the board.
“Without question, the depression, which began in the fall of 2008, and the accompanying lack of confidence in the future, have been one of the major causes of the decline and may have been the original precipitating event,” said Susan Prager, executive director of the Association of American Law Schools, in an email.
In 2012, at a time when other law schools were facing larger setbacks in enrollment, the UNC School of Law enrolled 240 students — only 10 fewer than 2011.
Last year was the first time the program had a class smaller than the year before, but Michael States, the law school’s assistant dean for admissions, said he is not concerned.
“Our decline of 10 students isn’t enough to say it was because of X, Y, or Z,” he said.
States said law schools are seeing fewer enrollees because higher tuition and levels of undergraduate debt are causing students to delay pursuing a law degree. And students might not be ensured a job after they graduate.
Prager said the decline in enrollment seems dramatic because law school enrollment spiked in 2010.
Pre-law students at UNC are considering the price of law school and low job prospects.
Travis Styres, a UNC senior planning on going to law school, understands that pursuing a career like law comes with its risks, but she said it’s just like finding a job in another field.
“I feel confident that law school is the right choice for me, so the financial responsibility is something that I have accepted,” she said.
Styres said that even as an undergraduate, she has received help and guidance from pre-law advisors.
Brian Lewis, assistant dean for career services at UNC’s School of Law, said the school is doing everything in its power to help students prepare for the job market.
UNC School of Law’s Career Services offers law students an array of opportunities including pro bono projects, internship openings and moot court experience, he said.
“We can’t create jobs, but we can do a lot to make sure our students stand out from the competition,” Lewis said.
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