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LSAT Prep Has Staggering Costs for Certain Students

Recently a young Native American woman and aspiring lawyer asked me if I knew any free or low cost LSAT prep courses.  I had previously tried to dissuade her from law school--just as my grandfather had given me 29 Reasons Not to Go to Law School before I enrolled--but alas, she, like I, was determined.  I didn’t know much about LSAT prep but soon felt the shock of the $1300 price tag.  Soon thereafter, the $1300 grew much more significant when I realized the enormous negative impact of high-cost prep courses, especially on low-income people and people of color, but essentially on the whole legal profession.

Inaccessibility to quality LSAT prep can lead to disaster for low-income and minority students. Lower LSAT scores push these students into less-prestigious law schools, with lower bar-passage rates and less access to higher paying legal jobs. “Minority students generally pay more for the privilege of going to these lesser schools, again thanks to the LSAT,” says Erin Thompson in her recent article in The Nation. This is the result of the merit scholarships law schools offer to students with high LSAT scores in order to increase their rankings. Lower-scoring students pay the full sticker price. Since they didn’t go to top-tier schools, they may struggle to find a job to pay for that enormous debt.  And so here is the irony: students who cannot afford $1300 for test prep end up paying multiples of that amount in law school tuition and still more multiples when the interest on their loans accrues.

People interested in truly equal access to legal education and the legal profession should address the straightforward solution of free or low cost LSAT prep.  True, some have tried this: PreProBono, 7sage, LSAT Blog and Khan Academy.  These are legitimate options and they are gaining traction.  But those of us conditioned to learn in a classroom with a live teacher (who isn’t?) and those needing the structure of a set schedule, might find the on-line options challenging.

My aspiring-lawyer friend looked into the options which I had suggested for her and decided it wasn’t worth the risk.  She needed to be in a physical classroom and she needed to get a good LSAT score. She ended up with one of the major companies. But she also ended up paying $1172 plus $25 shipping costs. This is in addition to her undergraduate student loans, super-sized San Francisco Bay Area rent and other monthly bills. But compared to full-tuition at a lower-ranking school and crippling debt lasting a lifetime? It’s worth it. Remember how determined she is? Smart too.

 

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