June 26, 2008

Law school applications buck national trend

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Strong marketing efforts, aggressive recruiting and a greater focus on reaching out to prospective students via the Internet is helping the SIU School of Law buck a national trend when it comes to law school applications.

While the number of applications to law schools nationwide is down 1.1 percent this year, the law school at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is seeing a 23-percent increase in applications compared to a year ago. Recent statistics from the Law School Admission Council show the SIU School of Law is among the top 18 of 195 American Bar Association-accredited law schools in the country in application percentage increase.

Dean Peter C. Alexander credits “very aggressive” recruiting efforts by the law school’s admissions office, faculty, staff and students. Through Tuesday, the law school received 797 applications for the upcoming 2008-2009 school year that starts Aug. 18. Josephine M. Koonce Evans, the law school’s director of admissions and financial aid, said she expects the number of applications will reach at least 800 after potential applicants receive their June LSAT results.

There are approximately 121 entering first-year students. The application period continues, and Alexander would like to have about 130 students in the first-year class.

“This is a college that has long enjoyed admissions recruitment participation by all of the constituency groups,” Alexander said. “We have faculty who volunteer to go to recruitment fairs, alumni who make contacts and students who make telephone calls. I’m on the recruitment trail attending recruitment fairs and forums with the admissions staff. I think all of those things make a difference and helps us raise our visibility to bring in many more applications.”

The Great Lakes Region -- comprised of law schools in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin -- has a 4.1 percent drop in applications from fall 2007 to fall 2008, according to the Law School Admission Council.

Evans notes the number of applications from transfer students is substantially increasing. That includes students from the Barkley School of Law in Paducah and other law schools.

The estimated cost for in-state residents attending the law school for the 2008-2009 academic year is $26,410, which includes tuition and fees, room and board, and books and supplies. The cost for non-Illinois residents is $44,704.

Evans credits the law school’s admissions and financial aid office staff for much of the credit in the increased number of applications.

“They’re a student-centered team that provides unequalled service -- from walking a non-traditional student through the application process to helping new students sort through financial aid issues and find housing,” she said.

The law school is also utilizing more electronic and online recruiting possibilities, Evans said.

“We are reaching out to people who may not know of or necessarily think about attending SIU,” she said. “We are making sure that people know who we are. When they look at us they find we are an excellent law school and offer a high-quality education at an affordable price.”

The SIU School of Law continues to attract students from throughout the United States, Alexander said. There is about a 60 percent-40 percent male/female split in the incoming class, Alexander said. He is generally pleased with this year’s class profile, noting that the median LSAT and GPA scores are at or better than a year ago. Alexander said he does wish there was a better gender balance in the class.

He also noted that law schools are fighting for a shrinking pool of students of color because of a national trend that those students are choosing to enter professional programs other than law school.

More information on SIU School of Law admissions is available at http://www.law.siu.edu/admissions.asp