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Harvard to Waive 3L Tuition For Students in Public Interest Law for Five Years: The New York Times reports:
  Concerned by the low numbers of law students choosing careers in public service, Harvard Law School plans to waive tuition for third-year students who pledge to spend five years working either for nonprofit organizations or the government.
  The program, to be announced Tuesday, would save students more than $40,000 in tuition and follows by scant months the announcement of a sharp increase in financial aid to Harvard's undergraduates. The law school, which already has a loan forgiveness program for students choosing public service, said it knew of no other law school offering such a tuition incentive.
  "We know that debt is a big issue," said Elena Kagan, dean of the law school. "We have tried to address that over the years with a very generous loan forgiveness program, but we started to think that we could do better."
This is a wonderful idea, I think. I'm very glad Harvard both is willing to do this and can afford it.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Could 3L Tuition Waiver Have Unintended Consequences?
  2. Harvard to Waive 3L Tuition For Students in Public Interest Law for Five Years:
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Could 3L Tuition Waiver Have Unintended Consequences?

Like Orin, my initial reaction to Harvard Law School's announcement of a tuition waiver for 3Ls who choose to work in public interest law for five years after graduation is a neat idea. Insofar as HLS is a trendsetter in legal education, this decision could induce other law schools to attempt similar measures (insofar as they can afford it). But could this policy have unintended consequences? UCLA economist Matthew Kahn thinks it might. Specifically, he thinks it could reduce the number of female HLS grads who become partners at large firms.

If women have a higher probability of accepting this new offer then men, and if once you pick this path you can't return to the private sector and make partner then my proof is complete that an unintended consequence of this new policy will be to reduce the number of women from HLS who get promoted to partner at the fancy NYC law firms.

Now , you may counter that these women weren't at the margin. You might say that the liberal women who want to enter public law were never at risk to prove Larry Summers wrong. You may be right but this subsidy doesn't help.

A key assumption in Kahn's prediction is that female law students, on the margin, will be more likely to accept the HLS offer than male students. Is this a reasonable assumption? For instance, is there empirical data suggesting that women are more inclined either a) to work in the public interest sector than men, or b) to seek alternatives to the traditional partner track? If not, is general research on political differences between men and women enough to support this assumption? And if Kahn's assumption is valid, if the new policy enables more women to pursue their desired career path, wouldn't that be a good thing? I'd be interested in the thoughts of those who know something about these issues.

UPDATE: More on Harvard's new policy at Law School Innovation.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Could 3L Tuition Waiver Have Unintended Consequences?
  2. Harvard to Waive 3L Tuition For Students in Public Interest Law for Five Years:
52 Comments