Our first year class is up about 30% and LSATs are (officially) the same as last year. In fact, they look a bit stronger, but not enough to move the US News needle. If the trend were to continue, however, we could potentially raise them next year.
We matriculated more than 310 students this year; last year we matriculated about 240. We’re told that all the other indicators, e.g. minority enrollment 46% (dominated by Hispanic students), also are basically indistinguishable from last year. I gather that 2L transfers in were also notably higher than transfers out — although the #1 student in the class inexplicably chose to transfer to Yale Law.
These astonishing and (to me at least) unexpected admission numbers are good news — great news — for the law school’s finances and near-term future. Last year, despite suffering a smaller drop in applications than the national average, we under-admitted to keep up academic standards. This year thanks to increases in applications and in yield over last year we did not need to do that: we now have approximately the number of students in the first year class needed for long-run financial health at steady-state — at a size considerably smaller than our peak 1L classes. Those used to run at a gargantuan 380 … and sometimes more when yield fluctuations caught us by surprise.
I hope, of course, that these numbers translate into good news for our graduates three years from now. That means work for them, and for those of us on the faculty too.
In one way, however, the numbers are not quite as great news for me: there are 41 students in my Torts class where last year there would have been 30. It’s a bit more crowded in there.
The interesting question, though, is why? Why were our applications and yield and up so sharply this year, in what I expect must be well above national trend given the number of LSAT takers?
At present, I have only one idea, and it’s not one that I hold with much confidence: perhaps the lag time for gains in US New rank to reflect in student choices is much longer than we think. Results come out in Spring before the deadline for students to choose a school. Even so, by that point they’ve already decided where to apply, and many may also also have decided their priority list or even sent in a deposit. So this year’s outcomes are a product not of last year’s rankings but of at least the last two year’s rankings, and maybe more. (Please note that I’m not in any way endorsing the US News rankings method, nor the idea that a sensible student would place weigh on anything more than a very large variation in the rankings. That said, it’s conventional wisdom that prospective students care a lot about even small deviations.)
To have any shot at a better guess, I’ll need to know more about the national data. I hear rumors of a diverse set of outcomes at other law schools — some also did well some not so well. We have some nice new programs, but they’re small; the football team is doing better, but it still doesn’t feel quite like championship material, so those traditional explanations seem insufficient to explain a jump of this magnitude. I do know that our Admissions office worked really, really hard, but then they worked pretty hard last year too. The law school gave out more scholarships, which also must have contributed to the jump, although from what I hear we are nowhere near what Brian Leiter suggests may be a national average of 48% for private law schools.
Whatever the reason for Miami Law’s enrollment rebound, I’m happy about it. I just wish I knew the cause so I could bottle it.
How did your law school do?