Sessions at AACRAO's 98th Annual Meeting

Assessing Factors Influencing Student Academic Success in Law School

On April 2nd, at the 2012 AACRAO Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Robert Detwiler (University of Toledo) presented on his doctoral thesis, which included extensive research on what factors predict strong grade point averages in the third year of law school (3L GPA). His findings indicate, not surprisingly, that undergraduate GPA and LSAT scores are the strongest predictors of law school success. However, he also found that involvement with the student body while in law school is as even stronger positive indicator.

Amongst the positive indicators for strong 3L GPA were law journal membership, class participation, moot court participation, and assisting faculty with legal research. Being the head of the law journal or president of an organization is a negative predictor, because these students are typically not spending as much time studying as other students who are just members. Other negative indicators are more obvious – unpreparedness, working at a non-legal job, and large student loan debt all were negative predictors of 3L success.

The study utilized information gathered from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), which provided Robert with 1756 3L student surveys gathered from a representative sample of law schools across the country. 

An unintended consequence of Robert’s study was his determination of the LSSSE’s numerous inadequacies. As he put it, the survey often does not ask the right kinds of questions. This limited what he could do with his research, but he does have intentions to follow up this study with focuses on first year and part-time student success.

An Examination of Freshman Tuition Discounting Before and During the Current Economic Downturn

On April 2nd, 2012, Michael Duggan (Emerson College) and Rebecca Mathews (Boston College) presented at AACRAO’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia on their findings regarding freshman tuition discounting. They examined private, non-profit institutions of various sizes and types to determine whether, and to what extent, they responded to the recent recession by altering freshman tuition discounting strategies. Their results show that from 2000-2010, the number of freshman receiving discounted tuition rose from 78% to 88% and the average size of that discount rose from 37% to 42%. Virtually every school showed a large spike in discounting in 2008.

Many results came as no surprise to the researchers – schools with larger endowments offered larger discounts, especially during the brunt of the recession in 2008. Schools with higher selectivity rates generally offered lower discount rates than other institutions. Still other schools offset the potential losses in tuition by increasing enrollment to maintain an operable level of revenue. 

The data for their study was collected from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which provided information on over 500 institutions, or roughly 79% of all the schools fitting their classifications for study. 

More recent data suggests a growing trend among these universities of lowering their discounting rates to almost pre-recession levels. IPEDS has not released data that can confirm this trend with any certainty, so Rebecca and Michael have indicated they will do a follow up study in the months to come, once the information becomes available.