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Law school enrollment down, Med school enrollment up

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The number of law school applicants continues to dwindle for the third consecutive year. For the 2013 to 2014 school year, 55,760 people applied to American Bar Association-accredited schools, which is down by more than 13 percent from 2012, according to the WashingtonPost.com. The same report indicates that enrollment is down by more than 7 percent. Law school just isn’t as attractive as it used to be. The question is: why are students shying away from going to law school?

The Rise of Costs

One problem law schools face is rising costs. Though law schools have always been more pricey than other types of education, increasing tuition across the board is placing it beyond the means of many potential students. The 2001 average tuition for a private law school was $23,000, the NYTimes.com noted. As of 2012, this number jumped to $40,500. Public law schools, on the other hand, cost about $8,500 in 2001 and $23,600 in 2012. The rise in tuition costs were sharply higher than the rise in inflation. Books, laptops and other items can be charged as business expenses to an AMEX business credit card, but that still leaves the heavy burden of tuition and other fees on students.

It’s a Daunting Educational Process

The entire educational process is long and grueling. As the NewYorkLawJournal.com notes, there is talk about allowing students to take the bar exam after two years of law school. Though this would need to be approved at the highest levels of the American Bar Association, it could make training more within reach. That may reduce the overwhelming frustrations some students have of spending six, seven or even eight years in law school before working in the field.

The Job Demands Are Harsh

Once the student enters the workforce, many are faced with working jobs that have nothing to do with their hard-earned degrees. There are numerous career paths students can take, including working as defense and prosecution trial lawyers. But the high numbers of lawyers and relatively low number of jobs available deter some graduates from ever fulfilling their dreams.

This is partially why medical school—the “other” proverbially prestigious educational opportunity—enrollment is up. A 30 percent increase in enrollment by 2015 is likely to take place, Medscape noted. The 2011 Medical School Enrollment Survey, issued by the Center for Workforce Studies of the Association of American Medical Colleges, stated that the growth from 2006 to 2015 would address the expected physician shortage. The opportunities will be there for medical school graduates, unlike the juris doctors working as mortgage consultants and salesmen.

The Needs of This Generation

Finally, there is the generation gap to consider. Men and women in previous generations were happy to work nine to five or until the job was done. In Generation X, the needs of the worker are different. Gen Xers need flexibility in scheduling, opportunities to make choices and the room to grow, according to Entrepreneur.com. This generation works hard and plays even harder. Law careers are less attractive because they demand long hours and limited flexibility overall.

Law school is just not the guaranteed ticket to prosperity it once was. If justice and the law are the primary motivations for students to enroll, then it will be rewarding. Money can no longer be the primary goal, as it is not that simple anymore.

Author Bio: Richard Ross. Rick is a paralegal from Riverside, Calif.

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