Monday, May 2, 2011

It's Not Enough to Watch Out for Voc School Loans. Look Out for Law School Grants!

This blog had a previous post on the potential ripoff of voc ed schools that have big costs (and federally-backed loans), but low graduation rates.  Now, according to the New York Times, law school students are in danger of getting a precarious scholarship that could disappear quickly, and leave them with the unenviable position of taking out expensive loans to finish up their education.  Here's how: good undergrads are offered merit scholarships that last as long as the student keeps up a certain grade point average, say, a 3.0.  But since many of the first year classes are graded on a curve, it goes without saying that a certain percentage of people will be left below the mark and lose their scholarships.  Unlike Lake Woebegone, not everybody is above average, although everyone assumes an exception will be made for them.
What's interesting is the why law schools do this: luring good students with high undergrad GPAs will raise the law school's ranking in U.S. News, a well-known publication that rates both grad and undergrad schools.  So it helps the school's ranking to get smart students to enroll, even though administrators know that a certain number will be flushed out or end up deep in debt.  It reminds you of the old college athletic practice of "running of"f recruits who were attracted to a football program by a scholarship, but later proved to be expendable.
Students can arm themselves with information, as revealed later in the story.  As noted, there are ways to check the information to see how many scholarships are offered a year, and often information in student handbooks on how the grades are curved, so that you have an idea of how tough your scholarship is to hold on to.  Like students attending the humblest voc-tech school, look before you leap onto that scholarship that is offered, in which you "just" have to keep your GPA above a certain level.  And keep a lookout for other law school scholarships available that might look less attractive, but might be easier to keep.  Look in places like the Ultimate Scholarship Book (at libraries are bookstores).

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