Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Law school entrance exam takers dropping

Credit: The New York Times
From the New York Times' Economix blog, evidence of lowered interest in law degrees from Catherine Rampell:
The number of people taking the Law School Admission Test, known as the LSAT, offered in October fell sharply, down 16.4 percent from the year before, reaching its lowest level since 1999. October is usually the most popular time to take the test, too.  
No wonder, then, that law schools are cutting the size of their entering classes. Perhaps this means it’ll still be easier to get into the top schools, though, depending on how much the most elite schools decide to shrink their class sizes. 
There was a huge surge in law school applications during the recession and its immediate aftermath as people displaced by the poor economy sought the “safety” of a legal career. But now potential students seem to have wised up to the huge debt burden and poor job placement prospects.
I wonder if there's been similar evidence of smaller Ph.D. programs. I haven't heard any rumors of such, but there are other drivers of large entering grad student classes (demand for TAs, etc.)

Readers, what say you?


15 comments:

  1. PhD programs will never shrink in size as long as professors are allowed easy access to international students. More telling would be the ratio of citizens to non-citizens.

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  2. It also doesn't cost any money to attend graduate school (in chemistry), so it's almost a no-brainer for a B.S. chemist with no job prospects. It's cheaper to the take the Chemistry GRE and there aren't any prep classes to pay for anyway. :)

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  3. "It also doesn't cost any money to attend graduate school (in chemistry)"

    I think you meant to say that it doesn't cost THE STUDENT any money.

    I'm pretty sure the taxpayers who fund research grants and state schools are paying for this (not to mention the nebulously incalculable 'opportunity cost' to the student....). I think this disconnect is pretty galling, especially when US taxpayers end up funding the graduate education of those from other countries who then go back to said countries and compete with American workers for lower wages. This is probably most egregious at smaller state schools, where graduates have little real chance of getting a job and contributing to the US economy, but whose taxpayer funded US education may well have a greater cachet in their home country.

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    1. "not to mention the nebulously incalculable 'opportunity cost' to the student...."

      The only "opportunity" I'm missing out on is sitting in my parent's basement and playing video games.

      As bad as the market is for experienced chemists, it's much worse for fresh college graduates with no experience.

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    2. The 'opportunity cost' comment was a dig at the blog proprietor, who is still struggling to come up with a calculation. (I have a few ideas.)

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    3. I managed to play plenty of video games during grad school. Especially in third to fifth year when the heat was off, all projects were working, and the boss wasn't stressed out about tenure. And to think, I was stupid enough to sell my Playstation 2 when I started grad school because I didn't think I'd ever have time for it ever again. I managed to finish quite a few RPGs in my fourth year on that thing, when I cut my 'real working hours' to about 30 a week (minus the sitting around time doing nothin' or eating lunch). Even bought a Game Cube. So... as one of the opportunity costs, you don't have to sacrifice valuable video game playing time if you manage your lab-time right.

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    4. "The 'opportunity cost' comment was a dig at the blog proprietor, who is still struggling to come up with a calculation. (I have a few ideas.)"

      ;). Maybe start with the Drake "equation" as a guide.....

      The GMAT exam also seems to have seen a declining # of takers in past 5 years (http://www.gmac.com/~/media/Files/gmac/Research/Geographic%20Trends/n-america-geo-trend-ty2011.pdf, page 31). The % decline from peak seems less severe than for the LSAT. Seems odd to me, as a law degree has some fundamental value (in writing contracts/patents/criminal stuff, etc.) while an MBA (and I write this having "earned" one---no one fails out of B school), outside of a maybe four accounting/finance courses, is of no fundamental value. Zero. Useless. I guess pie chart class was valuable.....

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  4. I know at least 2 chemistry departments at universities that have a shortage of graduate TAs going into the next term and are actually hiring to fill needed TA spots. That may indicate smaller graduate class sizes than in the past, or better research TA funding for chemistry professors.

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    1. I know that at my own large, undergraduate-heavy university, we have a shortage of chemistry TAs almost solely because of the rising numbers of undergraduate micro&molecular biology students, who need to take up through Chem II and lab.

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    2. I believe many departments are still seeing increases in students taking classes.

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    3. I just interviewed a post-post-doc who was TAing at Boston College. They lacked TAs because their incoming undergrad classes were increasing (or at least the fraction of them taking genchem was going up), not because they had fewer grad students.

      Not exactly good news.

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  5. I've seen slightly bigger classes (anecdotal evidence alert) -- bad chemistry economy has been going downhill for a while, hasn't it? And no real sign of slowing down as far as PhD students go. Though some departments are considering raising stipends to attract more/better students.

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  6. Chemistry master's programs are not free.

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    1. The easy way around that is to enter a school declaring to go for your PhD, but really having the intention to leave after 2 years with a masters.

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    2. i got TA and RA funding for my MSc. Didnt have to pay tuition and got a paycheque to take home every 2 weeks. only living cost.

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