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Expectations

Still Demanding the Maximum Value for my Tuition

Every time I think about how much I’m paying to go to law school, my head starts to hurt, my stomach gets queasy,and I’m not sure if I’m going to throw up or pass out.  Last semester, I paid over $9,800 in tuition and fees and I expected the full value for my money.  This fall, the cost just for tuition alone is $10,630 ($4,255 for graduate school tuition + $6,375 for law school tuition).  With the cost of law school tuition on the rise nationwide, every time the institutional powers that be raise my tuition, I in turn raise my expectations.  I had to do the math to see how much I’m paying for this semester’s experience.

This semester I am taking 16 credits of class – 5 regular classes and a 2-credit externship.  I am paying $664.375 per credit.  Here’s the break down for each of my classes.

Criminal Procedure, Copyright Law, and Cyberspace Law are 3 credits each.  They all meet twice a week for 85 minutes.  Each course is valued at $1993.125, $76.66 per class, or $0.90187 per minute.  The cost to attend one of these classes is more than the price to see Kathy Griffin live.

Trademark Law is a 3-credit class, but we only meet once a week for 175 minutes.  This class is valued at $1993.125 for the course, $142.37 per class, or $0.81352 per minute.  Going to this class once is more expensive than buying a lower level ticket on the 50-yard line at an Arizona Cardinals game.

Privacy is a 2-credit seminar class that meets once a week for 115 minutes.  Its value is $1328.75 for the course, $110.73 per class, or $0.9629 per minute.  Going to class is about what I pay for a pair of running shoes.  I have a friend who recently paid about this much to see Lady GaGa in concert and sit in the nosebleed section.

My externship is basically a class where I pay to work for a judge or agency.  To earn 2 credits, I have to work for 120 hours.  I’m paying $1328.75 for this experience or $11.06 per hour.  Working for them for an hour is more expensive than going to a movie.  This is my least expensive class from an hourly perspective, and it’s still a lot of ramen.

If I am paying this much to sit in a classroom, I expect the value of the experience to be equal to what I could be spending my money on instead of tuition.  Last semester, I wanted the academic equivalent of glitter, fanfare, and dancing girls.  This semester with the increase in tuition, I expect an even higher value.  I still want glitter, fanfare, and dancing girls, but this semester I want the academic equivalent of skydiving too.  I want to be so entertained and engaged by my professor’s stories and explanations that I forget that I’m in school, overworked, exhausted, and stressed.

Last semester I didn’t get the value of my tuition and I unsuccessfully demanded my money back.  As students, it’s frustrating that we don’t have much power over the classroom experience besides dropping a course when the professor or the class doesn’t meet our needs.  For the most part, I have been happy with my law school experience, but I will ask for my money back if I feel like I’m being ripped off.  When I demanded my money back from the law school, I was told that I had to seek compensation from the university.  I wonder how the president of the university would react if he received a demand letter.

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Demanding My Money Back

 

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I think I’ve established that I expect a high value for my tuition.  This past week, I got to confront the problem head on when a professor was very late to class.  He was apologetic and delivered a shortened version of his usually awesome lecture.  While I was waiting for him to arrive, I started calculating what his tardiness was costing me and I decided to do something about it.  I sent the dean of the law school a letter demanding my money back:

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Dear Dean Berman:

The College of Law has committed a substantial breach of our contract.  The letter is to inform you of the expected remedy.

On January 31, 2008, I received my acceptance letter to ASU Law School.  The school extended me the offer to pay tuition and fees in exchange for the opportunity to attend classes.  The terms of our agreement included adhering to the ABA’s rules of law students and the law school’s honor code, maintaining a minimal GPA, and making biannual payments to the school.  If I completed these requirements, I would be awarded a J.D. degree in May 2011.  I accepted your offer and have performed my requirements diligently since August 2008.

For spring semester 2010, the school continued our contract by allowing me to continue to take classes in exchange for $10,618.05 in tuition and fees.  Scholarships paid $750 of my financial obligation, leaving me with the $9868.05 balance, which I paid on January 14, 2010 with an electronic check.  This check pre-paid for the classes I am currently taking.

I am registered for 14 credits this semester, which translates to $704.85 per credit.  My three-credit Intellectual Property course that is scheduled to meet 26 times during the semester, for 85 minutes per session has a value of $2114.58 for the course, $81.33 per class session, or 95.7 cents per minute. 

Paying $81 for an 85-minute lecture is a significant amount of money, and I demand a high value for my money.  Professor Douglas Sylvester teaches Intellectual Property and usually delivers an $81 value in each class with his dynamic style.  However, on Tuesday, February 16, 2010, he was 37 minutes late for class.  I appreciated his apology for his tardiness, but this does not negate the fact that ASU Law School did not fulfill its obligation to me that day.  Therefore, I am entitled to recoup $35.40 of my spring semester payment….

Sincerely,
Ruth Carter, LPC
Class of 2011

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I thought it was hilarious to demand my money back.  Thirty-five dollars isn’t much to some people, but that’s months’ worth of ramen to a college kid. 

I was a little surprised when I got a call from Berman yesterday wanting to talk about my letter.  He basically took my fun away and said I could either (1) have a 37-minute tutorial with Sylvester or (2) file a law suit against ASU, but I wasn’t getting my money back because “it doesn’t work that way.” 

Even though things didn’t work out the way I hoped, I followed my rule: You can’t bitch about something unless you’re willing to do something about it. 

Mission accomplished.

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Demanding the Maximum Value for my Tuition Buck

Quality and value are important to me.  I want the maximum value for my money and I don’t mind paying extra for high quality products and services.  One of the annoying things about being a law student is that every semester, I have to pay tuition twice.  I have graduate school tuition and law school tuition, plus annoying fees like a $255 “Economic Recovery Surcharge.”  In the words of my classmate, “We’re being ripped off.”

I paid over $9800 in tuition and fees for spring semester this week.  That’s what I owed after my scholarships kicked in.  I know my in-state tuition is nothing compared to what Ivy League students pay, but it’s still a lot of ramen. 

 I am taking 14 credits this semester.  I did the math; my tuition breaks down to $705/credit.  Therefore, my 3-credit Intellectual Property course is costing me $2115 for the semester.  If we meet twice a week for the 15-week term, that’s ~$81 for each 85-minute class, or just under $1/minute.

 I wonder if the professors realize what we’re, or at least what I’m expecting in return for my tuition.

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 I don’t go to a lot of shows and concerts because I don’t think I’ll get my money’s worth.  When someone buys a cheap seat for a show, the experience often costs less than $1/minute.  So I want show quality performances from my professors…every day.  I want my money’s worth.

 If I’m paying enough for a show quality presentation, I want a dynamic professor who uses a teaching style that’s compatible with my learning style.  I don’t doubt that law school professors enjoy teaching.  Unfortunately some of them are boring and teach by standing in front of the class and reading the textbook to us.  I’ve already paid $100+ for the book.  I can stay home and read for free.  The solution to boring professors in college is not taking their classes.  My school, and probably many others, only has one professor for certain subjects.  Therefore, if I take those classes, I’m literally paying $1000s to teach myself with minimal additional guidance.

 What I want are professors who are competent, enthusiastic, and entertaining.  Sesame Street had it right when they decided to teach children with songs and puppets.  I want the law school equivalent of singing, dancing, and glitter in every class.       

 I have a personal rule that I can’t bitch about a problem unless I’m willing to do something to resolve it.  I’m not sure what the solution is for professor-student cross-mojination.  Until I figure out the answer, I’m going to continue to show up prepared for class, emailing the professor when I have questions; but in return, I expect to get the full value of every penny I’m paying for this educational experience.

 I’m lucky.  I have in-state tuition.  If I expect glitter, I can’t image what value an out-of-state student should be demanding.