Thursday, October 25, 2012

Trustworthy Data v. Fraudulent Stats and the "Personal Responsibility Brigade"

Well, we all knew, down deep, that it was happening - after having been through the law school wringer and confronting the realities of the marketplace.  The difficult-to-find jobs, the low wages compared to student loan burdens, the non-versatility of the JD.  The complete opposite of what the law schools proclaimed. 

It was difficult to prove, but the circumstantial evidence was there with the anecdotes, the BLS statistics, the skyrocketing legal tuition, the insane faculty and administrative salaries.  However, it was dismissed out of hand, relegated to the trash heap, written off as the complainings of bitter, entitled losers - mostly by those who profit from student loans and their apologists. 

But, as seen on LST and other sites, the strongest evidence yet that (allegedly) fraudulent employment stats were published by TJSL, and that "everyone was doing it":

And, Professor Campos relates the tale about increasing the rolls of a LLM program for fun and profit, with the uncomfortable question of "is this in the best interest of the students?" being left deliberately unresolved.

As for the plight of students and professionals who have to live with the consequences?  Cue the "personal responsiblity brigade," ("PRB") who will swoop in and say "well, those damn kids should have done their 'research'.  Why would any thinking person believe these people anyway?  Of course the schools were self-interested.  Whiners.  Losers."

Ah, yes, the much ballyhooed "research" canard, the sword upon which many a troubled graduate has fallen upon as the simple answer to complex woes.

Leaving behind the question of "are you really going to blame victims of fraud in the first place?  Rly?  That's OK with you?" for the moment, the bigger question is "how does one determine quality data?"  Purchasing higher education is not exactly the same thing as buying a refrigerator - in the latter case, there are Consumer Reports, Underwriters Laboratories, user reviews, and a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to turn to, to name a few.  Also, a bad refigerator purchase is easy to recover from, while a "bad education" is not - especially in 2012 dollars.  It is life-changing.

From whence does the research data come from, then, in the case of Law Schools?  Why, the schools themselves.  NALP merely parrots the data.  USN&WR merely parrots the data.  The ABA looks the other way, doing whatever the accreditation committee does all day.  There is no independent review of the data.  No uninterested parties.  One would think that these non-profit bastions of ethics and future-lawyer-character-formation would feel some sense of fiduciary duty, but you would be wrong -  at least to hear the courts tell it.  The students "should have known better and suspected the data was fraudulent." 

How about the experiences of other lawyers?  Well, that data is anecdotal, and difficult to quantify with any real sense of trend analysis or confidence.  "Successful" lawyers will tell you that it is the best thing they ever did, and so should you.  "Unsuccessful" lawyers are (wait for it!) bitter, whining losers who should not be trusted.

Again, what "data" is the prospective student to rely upon with confidence, such that the PRB would be rightly justified in holding the student to task for their poor choice, as they so seem to relish in their self-righteous zeal?

None, as far as I can see.  The PRB's de facto recommendation, then, in essence?  "Don't get an education, as no institution of higher learning can be trusted."  For that matter, don't do anything, then, that would expose someone to risk of any kind, as the victim will be blamed in full, with no fault lying with the perpatrator.

I would draw the comparison between Wall Street banks bundling sub-prime mortgage CDOs with Moody's and Standard & Poor's rubber-stamping the quality of the CDOs, and the need for effective regulation.  But we already know how the PRB feels about homeowners who struggle to pay their underwater mortgages, or investors who looked at the data and invested in CDOs that were set up to fail.  Why should students be treated any differently?

All I can say is:  it must be great to have the omniscient vantage point of the PRB.  I wonder what it's like to be perfect in every way.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Here is what you're getting into...

This poster sums it up beautifully, in a comment at DailyKos regarding the business of "for-profit" education.  Which is increasingly becoming the mentality of "non-profit" education (cough cough Indiana Tech School of Law cough cough)...

No-win for those on the downward (56+ / 0-)
spiral slide.
Can't get a job/a job that pays the bills? If you weren't lazy, you'd go back to college and get the skills you need to be in demand.

Got another degree and now up to your eyes in student loans? Oh, so rather than bit the bullet like everyone else, you went for the luxury life of a grad student and now you'll pay for it.

Still can't get a job? Why didn't you get a degree in something in demand? Your bad choice, idiot.

Took out even more student loans to do the extra time to switch fields entirely for your graduate degree and now struggling? You're an irresponsible spender who thinks you deserve to get degrees in two subjects and be a professional student forever; no wonder you're up to your eyeballs in debt—you can't manage your life.

Didn't want to go into debt so you studied part-time while you worked, only to find that because your degree took so long, your skills are out of date the moment you graduate? You're afraid to take risks and take responsibility for your actions; you should have taken student loans like everybody else so that you
could get your degree in a timely fashion rather than slacking off.

Basically: It's always your fault. College has little to do with it. Poor? YOU SUCK, THAT'S WHAT.

Welcome to America.
-9.63, 0.00
I am not a purity troll. I am a purity warrior.

Good luck non-trads, and watch out.  As you look at the glossy brochures and the doctored placement statistics, remember that it's always ON YOU.  Period.  Think twice, or better three times, before you double-down on that oh-so-glamourous legal future.