III. Strengthening Financial Support

Strengthening Financial Support

Given the seismic, structural shifts in the employment market for law graduates, along with the high levels of student debt, there is an urgent need to address the gap between earnings and debt for an increasing number of our graduates. Despite the additional investments in financial aid and restrained tuition increases in recent years, students with incomes at the lower end of the graduating student income scale are finding it difficult to service their debt upon graduation.

Over the next several years, we will invest substantially in financial aid for our entering and continuing law students. Some of these investments will continue to help us recruit the most highly qualified students. Such recruitment has become an increasingly competitive process, as our peer law schools have also invested in financial aid and have, in the cases of the wealthiest law schools, leveraged their resources to recruit applicants through substantial financial aid. Our continuing excellence and reputation depends upon our ability to recruit these extraordinary students. Relatedly, our objectives of recruiting a diverse student body — diverse upon several dimensions — requires augmented financial investment.

In addition, we will invest in the well-being of our students by providing increased financial support for those in financial need. While we provide scholarship support for needy students, our ability to provide support adequate to ameliorate student need and thereby keep debt manageable has been limited — not as a result of a wavering commitment, but because of a lack of suitable funds. We need to do better. A key element of this strategic plan is to raise external funds to make a significant dent in aggregate student debt. After all, Northwestern Law must be a place which welcomes and educates top quality students regardless of financial condition and circumstance. Student debt impacts student learning, career choice, and post-graduate well-being. We are committed to assuaging these serious impacts with constructive financial aid efforts.

If we are successful, the aggregate debt of our graduates will diminish substantially over time and our position on this particular statistic will move to the bottom quartile of the cohort of top law schools. Moreover, we are committed to taking measures that will influence other top law schools, as well as law schools generally, to take similar steps to reduce the cost of legal education writ-large.

Progress on Strengthening Financial Support Initiatives