As the recession increases interest in graduate programs nationwide, the number of applications to Cornell Law School had jumped an unprecedented 52% by last Wednesday. Administrators, who attribute the gain to growing unemployment and the stumbling economy, will not know the total number of applicants until the law school’s application deadline, February 1.
“The increase is probably the result of a number of things working together,” said Richard Geiger, dean of admissions. “What I can’t explain is why it’s 50 percent and not 20 percent.”
Nationally, the number of people who took the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) climbed 20 percent in 2009, while the number of Americans who sat for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) rose 13 percent. Law school admissions officers consequently expected a surge in applications, but did not predict such a marked increase.
Law schools at Washington University in St. Louis, University of San Francisco, and University of Iowa have all reported double-digit gains in applications thus far, but nothing rivals Cornell’s unparalleled upsurge. With more than 5,000 applicants, the school has already broken its record set in 2003.
The law school does not, however, plan to increase its enrollment cap and remains committed to continue as “a small, intimate collegial law school.” Many law students welcome this reaffirmation.
“One of the reasons students really like Cornell [law school] is its smaller size and I don’t anticipate they’d change that,” Cyrus Ghavi grad, president of the Cornell Law Student Association, said.
Last year, the J.D. program enrolled 206 students from an applicant pool of more than 4,200 candidates. This year’s increase in applications allows the University to be more selective when handing out acceptance letters, which may mean a more diverse, accomplished student body.
“In terms of the quality of students, it’s a good thing for both the diversity of our own student body and our law school community,” said Christine Lee grad, editor-in-chief of the Cornell Law Review.
Cornell’s law school has long sponsored ethnic and individual diversity. According to a recent study by the Columbia Law School, representation among African-American and Mexican-American students in law schools has steadily decreased over the last 15 years. Cornell, meanwhile, boasted a 44% increase in its representation of black and Hispanic students from 1993 to 2009.
While the overall number of applications to law schools surged nationwide, the prospects for employment remain dismal.
“It’s an interesting time to apply [to law school] since the legal market has changed,” Lee said. “I wonder what will happen to all these people trying to go to law school.”
Since the University accepts law students on a rolling basis, many have already received their acceptance letters.
“The increase in applications will make us scrutinize things a little more carefully since we don’t fully understand what this is all about,” Geiger said. “We’ll be a little more cautious in making decisions.”