Rising law school tuitions are placing legal education out of
reach of economically disadvantaged minority students, says a New
England law school dean who targets much of the blame at American
Bar Association mandates placed on law schools seeking
The deans of Oklahoma's three law schools agree that minorities
are generally under-represented among their student bodies, but
don't agree that the ABA is the problem.
Dean Lawrence Velvel, of the Massachusetts School of Law, said
that with some law schools' tuition nearing $40,000 per year,
minorities have a long way to go before their representation among
the legal profession equals their proportionate share of the
population as a whole. Some 90 of the 194 ABA-approved schools
charge annual tuition of $25,000 or more, he said.
"The costs of all law schools are high, whether they're state law
schools or private law schools," Velvel said.
By costs, he is not referring to tuition, but the schools' own
cost per student, which he said averaged about $27,000 two years
"They're high because the ABA imposes on the schools various
requirements that are high-cost requirements," Velvel said.
A longtime critic of the ABA, Velvel acknowledged that other
issues impact the number of minorities in law schools.
However, he said the law-school accrediting association imposes
requirements regarding facilities, law libraries, faculty ratios and
other factors that add to law school costs.
"Private schools try to make as much of the costs back as they
can by high tuitions," he said.
Most states will only allow students from ABA-approved law
schools to sit for their bar exams, he added.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 7.7 percent of
Oklahoma's population is African-American, about 8.1 percent Native
American and about 6.6 percent Hispanic.
Dean Lawrence Hellman of the Oklahoma City University School of
Law said that the number of minority students has not been growing
at most American law schools. For one thing, he said, there are an
increasing number of law schools to which students can apply, giving
them more choice in where to go to school.
"Then, it may be a function of the cost of their options," he
said. "Public schools are less expensive than private schools. There
may be schools that have more scholarship resources to offer than
other schools, which affect the decision of students."
OCU's tuition is $870 per credit hour, which comes to $26,100 for
a full year of 30 hours. However, the school's Web site lists annual
tuition at $27,200.
For 2006-2007, out of 1,351 applicants to OCU, 4.1 percent were
Native American, 6.1 percent African-American, 6.1 percent Asian and
9 percent Hispanic. Like Oklahoma's other law schools, OCU also has
other minorities among its applicant pool and student body.
Of 639 admitted to OCU's law school, 4.2 percent were Native
American, 4.9 percent Asian, 2.3 percent African-American and 6.6
percent Hispanic. OCU reported 202 students actually matriculating,
of which 6.9 percent are Native American, 3 percent Asian, 1.5
percent African-American and 5.5 percent Hispanic.
OCU had a total minority enrollment of 17.8 percent last year and
17.7 percent this year. Thus far, Hellman, said about 17.8 percent
of students admitted for next year are minorities.
Asked about the relatively low percentage of African-American
students at Oklahoma law schools, Hellman said, "I'm afraid it
relates to pipeline issues."
To be able to pursue a professional degree, he said, students
must first obtain a college degree and attain the prerequisites for
a professional graduate degree such as law.
"It's a very challenging goal," he said.
Hellman said under-representation of minorities in law school has
been a concern of the legal profession for some time, and several
initiatives have been undertaken to address it. …