From an editorial Sunday in the New York Times:
In 2013, the median LSAT score of students admitted to Florida Coastal School of Law was in the bottom quarter of all test-takers nationwide. According to the test’s administrators, students with scores this low are unlikely to ever pass the bar exam.
Yet Florida Coastal charges nearly $45,000 a year in tuition, which can lead to crushing amounts of debt for its students.
If this sounds like a scam, that’s because it is. Florida Coastal, in Jacksonville, is one of six for-profit law schools in the country that have been vacuuming up hordes of young people, charging them outrageously high tuition and, after many of the students fail to become lawyers, sticking taxpayers with the tab for their loan defaults. Yet for-profit schools are not the only offenders. A majority of American law schools are increasingly engaging in such behavior.
In 2006, Congress extended the federal Direct PLUS Loan program to allow a graduate or professional student to borrow the full amount of tuition. The consequences of this free flow of federal loans have been entirely predictable: Law schools jacked up tuition and accepted more students, even after the legal job market stalled.
The government must require accountability from the law schools that live off student loans. This year, the Obama administration extended the gainful employment rule, which ties a school’s eligibility to receive federal student loans to its success in preparing graduates for jobs that will enable them to repay their debt.
Another good idea would be to cap the amount of federal loans available to individual schools or to students.