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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Will My Law School Perish?

Higher education is facing an economically challenging time due to lost revenues brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as we saw with the closure of Concordia Law School this summer, law schools are no exception. NYU advertising professor Scott Galloway has crunched the numbers for “the immunities and comorbidities of 436 universities included in US News and World Report’s Top National College Rankings.” And he predicts about 20% of these institutions entered the pandemic on such shaky ground that COVID-19 will be the death blow to them. In short, one in five of these universities or colleges will perish.

To calculate this, he looked at a series of variables to create the following scores:

  • Credential score (US News ranking, undergrad admit rate, average monthly Google search volume)
  • Experience score (student life grade and score)
  • Education score (various return on investment measures)
  • Average undergrad tuition & fees score
  • Value-to-cost ratio
  • Vulnerability score (endowment per full time student and percentage of international students)

From these he created two main measures: Value and Vulnerability. And based on whether one was high or low on these measures, he created four quadrants of schools: Thrive, Survive, Struggle, or Perish. Thus, a university with low value and high vulnerability falls into the perish quadrant, whereas a university with high value and low vulnerability falls in the thrive quadrant. The data can be found here.

I took these institutional assessments and matched them up with the U.S. News Law School Rankings (see below). Based on Professor Galloway’s predictions, 18 law schools will perish in the near future (because their university will perish). That is 1 school in the top 50, 5 in the 51-100, 5 in the 101-147, and 7 in the unranked law schools. I have listed them below in order of ranking:

27

Fordham

53

Cardozo (Yeshiva)

62

Seton Hall

70

Loyola (Chicago)

83

Chicago-Kent

93

Drexel

102

Hofstra

111

Chapman

118

DePaul

136

Pace

141

Willamette

148-194

Campbell

148-194

Elon

148-194

New England

148-194

Nova Southeastern

148-194

Detroit Mercy

148-194

Massachusetts-Dartmouth

148-194

Pacific

Another 28 schools are predicted to struggle:

50

Baylor

93

Lewis & Clark

105

Drake

111

Catholic

111

Tulsa

118

U. St. Thomas (MN)

122

Quinnipiac

122

Maine

122

Montana

126

Loyola-New Orleans

126

Mercer

129

Belmont

129

Seattle

141

Dayton

Now, before too much panic sets in, Professor Galloway doesn’t think this is all set in stone. Things can be done to save these universities.

What is more, as the old saying goes, all models are wrong, some are useful. Just how wrong is his model? From anecdotal evidence, quite wrong at times it would seem. Take my institution, for example. Chapman is designated to perish under Prof. Galloway’s calculations. Yet Chapman is doing quite well right now--so well, that not only has it not had to lay off faculty, it hasn’t even had to cut their pay. Hardly the stuff of an institution that is about to perish. Chapman isn't even struggling, so it seems it would be better to put it in at least the Survive, if not the Thrive category. That shows how far off Galloway's model is, at least in that once instance. And there are a host of questions regarding whether these are the correct measures to include in the model, whether they have been given the right weight, and whether anything important is missing? So these predictions must be taken with a gallon of salt. Further, just because a university perishes doesn't necessarily mean that its law school will.

Still, there is no doubt the pandemic may thin the herd, so to speak, of American law schools. Just how much thinning, and which schools, remains to be seen.

US News Ranking

Law School

Galloway Categorization

1

Yale

Thrive

2

Stanford

Thrive

3

Harvard

Thrive

4

Columbia

Survive

4

Chicago

Survive

6

NYU

Survive

7

U. Penn.

Thrive

8

Virginia

Thrive

9

Northwestern

Thrive

9

UC-Berkeley

Survive

9

Michigan

Thrive

12

Duke

Thrive

13

Cornell

Thrive

14

Georgetown

Survive

15

UCLA

Survive

16

UT-Austin

Thrive

17

Wash. U.

Thrive

18

USC

Survive

18

Vanderbilt

Survive

20

Boston University

Survive

21

Minnesota

Survive

22

Notre Dame

Thrive

23

George Washington

Survive

24

Arizona State

Survive

24

Emory

Survive

24

Florida

Survive

27

Fordham

Perish

27

UC-Irvine

Survive

27

Iowa

Survive

27

North Carolina

Thrive

31

Boston College

Thrive

31

Alabama

Survive

31

Georiga

Thrive

31

Illinois

Survive

31

Washington & Lee

Thrive

31

William & Mary

Survive

37

BYU

Thrive

38

Indiana

Survive

38

Ohio State

Survive

38

UC-Davis

Survive

38

Wisconsin

Survive

42

George Mason

Survive

42

U. Washington

Survive

42

Wake Forest

Survive

45

Utah

Survive

46

Colorado

Survive

47

Pepperdine

Survive

47

Arizona 

Survive

47

Maryland

Survive

50

Baylor

Struggle

50

Florida State

Survive

50

Connecticut

Survive

53

Cardozo (Yeshiva)

Perish

54

Tulane

Thrive

54

Richmond

Thrive

56

Southern Methodist

Thrive

56

Temple

Survive

56

Houston

Survive

59

UC-Hastings

n/a

60

Penn State-University Park

Survive

60

Texas A&M

Thrive

62

Loyola Marymount

Survive

62

Penn State-Carlisle

n/a

62

Seton Hall

Perish

62

UNLV

n/a

62

Villanova

Thrive

67

Northeastern

Survive

67

Miami

Survive

67

Missouri (Columbia)

Thrive

70

Loyola (Chicago)

Perish

70

Kansas

Thrive

70

Kentucky

Thrive

70

Tennessee

n/a

74

St. Johns

n/a

74

Denver

Survive

76

American

Thrive

76

Case Western

Survive

76

Georgia State

Survive

76

Rutgers

Survive

76

Nebraska

Survive

76

Oklahoma

Survive

76

Pittsburgh

Thrive

83

Brooklyn

n/a

83

Chicago-Kent

Perish

83

Cincinnati

Thrive

83

San Diego

Thrive

83

Wayne State

Thrive

88

New Hampshire

Thrive

88

Oregon

Survive

90

Florida International

Survive

90

St. Louis

Thrive

90

Arkansas-Fayetteville

Thrive

93

Drexel

Perish

93

Lewis & Clark

Struggle

93

Michigan State

Survive

96

LSU-Baton Rouge

Thrive

96

Hawaii

Survive

96

South Carolina

Thrive

99

Buffalo-SUNY

Survive

99

Louisville

Thrive

99

New Mexico

Survive

102

Cleveland State

n/a

102

Hofstra

Perish

102

Marquette

Thrive

105

Drake

Struggle

105

Stetson

n/a

107

CUNY

Survive

107

Howard

Thrive

107

Santa Clara

Survive

107

Washburn

n/a

111

Chapman

Perish

111

Syracuse

Survive

111

Texas Tech

Survive

111

Catholic

Struggle

111

Mississippi

Thrive

111

Tulsa

Struggle

111

West Virginia

Survive

118

Albany

Survive

118

DePaul

Perish

118

Gonzaga

Survive

118

U. St. Thomas (MN)

Struggle

122

Indiana-Indianapolis

Thrive

122

Quinnipiac

Struggle

122

Maine

Struggle

122

Montana

Struggle

126

Loyola-New Orleans

Struggle

126

Mercer

Struggle

126

Baltimore

n/a

129

Belmont

Struggle

129

Duquesne

Thrive

129

New York Law School

n/a

129

Seattle

Struggle

133

Creighton

Thrive

133

Missouri-Kansas City

Survive

133

Wyoming

Thrive

136

Pace

Perish

136

Suffolk

n/a

136

Idaho

Thrive

136

Toledo

n/a

140

Illinois-Chicago

Survive

141

Mitchell Hamline

n/a

141

Akron

n/a

141

Dayton

Struggle

141

Memphis

Survive

141

South Dakota

Thrive

141

Vermont

Thrive

141

Willamette

Perish

148-194

Appalachian

n/a

148-194

Atlanta's John Marshall

n/a

148-194

Ave Maria

n/a

148-194

Barry

n/a

148-194

California Western

n/a

148-194

Campbell

Perish

148-194

Capital

n/a

148-194

Charleston

n/a

148-194

Elon

Perish

148-194

Faulkner

n/a

148-194

Florida A&M

n/a

148-194

Florida Coastal

n/a

148-194

Golden Gate

n/a

148-194

Liberty

n/a

148-194

Lincoln Memorial

Struggle

148-194

Mississippi College

n/a

148-194

New England

Perish

148-194

North Carolina Central

n/a

148-194

Northern Kentucky

n/a

148-194

Nova Southeastern

Perish

148-194

Ohio Northern

n/a

148-194

Oklahoma City

Struggle

148-194

Regent

Struggle

148-194

Roger Williams

n/a

148-194

Samford

Struggle

148-194

Southern Illinois

Struggle

148-194

Southern University

n/a

148-194

South Texas

n/a

148-194

Southwestern

Struggle

148-194

St. Mary's

n/a

148-194

St. Thomas (FL)

n/a

148-194

Texas Southern

n/a

148-194

Touro College

n/a

148-194

Arkansas-Little Rock

n/a

148-194

Detroit Mercy

Perish

148-194

Massachusetts-Dartmouth

Perish

148-194

North Dakota

Survive

148-194

San Francisco

Survive

148-194

University of DC

n/a

148-194

Pacific

Perish

148-194

Western Michigan

Survive

148-194

Western New England

Struggle

148-194

Western State

n/a

148-194

Widener-Delaware

Struggle

148-194

Widener-Pennsylvania

Struggle

148-194

Inter-American

n/a

148-194

Pontifical Catholic

n/a

148-194

North Texas-Dallas

Survive

148-194

Puerto Rico

n/a

Posted by James Phillips on July 28, 2020 at 04:59 PM in Entry Level Hiring Report, Life of Law Schools, Teaching Law | Permalink

Comments

It was brought to my attention that the Pacific that is predicted to perish is a different institution than the law school. Instead, the law school is supposed to struggle rather than perish, so I apologize for the error.

Posted by: James Phillips | Aug 10, 2020 8:10:20 PM

It’s a shame the state of Vermont doesn’t have a better situated law school. I suspect it will be the first state in the lower 48 to be without a law school.

Posted by: AnonProf | Jul 30, 2020 12:44:44 PM

I wouldn't be so sanguine about Chapman (or anywhere else that seems to be doing fine--I have no specific info on Chapman). The question is not whether an institution is eliminating faculty or instituting pay cuts. It's whether the institution is proactively and realistically addressing its vulnerabilities or sticking it's head in the sand and hoping this will all blow over.

If Chapman--or anywhere else--is planning largely on the assumption of best case scenarios, then yes, you guys are in trouble. I'd rather see my institution taking action now to control costs, build reserves, and expand competitive advantages than hear more blue sky rhetoric about how well everything is going. Unfortunately, my school seems firmly entrenched in the second category.

Look. Things objectively aren't going well. If someone says they are, one has to wonder what they're hiding. That gnerally goes double for higher ed administrators. I don't know if Galloway's methodology is valid or not, but at least he's looking past the rhetoric.

Posted by: another anon | Jul 29, 2020 12:19:21 PM

@PaulB - There is no law school at the University of Vermont. The "Vermont" on this list is Vermont Law School, the private law school that has had some struggles. But the Thrive designation is not completely unrealistic since Vermont Law School is, in fact, a small private institution. It does not rely on income from room and board, from food and paraphernalia sales, leases of property to various vendors, etc, those things that are critical to larger universities but suffer when students are not on campus. So Vermont Law is surely still in a difficult financial situation but it does not rely at all on a larger university and it is relatively insulated from COVID-related risks.

Posted by: anon | Jul 29, 2020 8:30:30 AM

Marcus, the Vermont that Galloway refers to is the University of Vermont, not the law school which is a separate, private institution. I agree that this list shouldn't be taken literally, even though a large number of mostly private colleges will be at great risk. Even those colleges that will survive may have to decide if a money losing law school can be continued. In the 1980s, well known colleges such as Columbia, Northwestern, and Wash. U discontinued their dental schools even though the parent university was under no stress.

Posted by: PaulB | Jul 29, 2020 5:48:14 AM

If we could bump that number up to 75% perishing there may be some hope for our country.

Posted by: thegreatdisappointment | Jul 29, 2020 2:45:13 AM

This list is silly. Vermont, which:

- has only three tenured faculty teaching there now, having laid off most of their experienced faculty in 2018 to avoid going under financially,
- has a teeny, tiny endowment, and
- had a first time bar pass rate in 2019 of 45.76% (sic),

will thrive??

Posted by: Marcus | Jul 28, 2020 11:01:36 PM

Sorry if I misunderstood, but you say 28 schools are supposed to struggle, but I only see 14. (Problem may be on my end, but just checking.)

Posted by: GGK | Jul 28, 2020 5:39:28 PM

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