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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Monday, February 27, 2017
LSAT and the Problem with Merit-Based Scholarships
For roughly 27 years, the current form of the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) has worked as the primary arbiter of law school admissions. The test, which has existed in various forms since the late 1940s, was originally administered as a measure of the capacity of prospective law students that would allow assessment outside of GPA. Like the SAT for undergraduates, the test has been mandatory for decades.

Like the SAT, the LSAT appears to be a good quantitative measure of student success. Students with higher LSAT scores are more likely to do well in law school and are more likely to pass the bar exam. They are also far more likely to receive merit-based scholarships. All of this sounds pretty standard-fair even-until one reads between the lines.

A recent report by LSSSE, indicates that just 20% of law school scholarship money is need-based. LSAT scores skew along racial lines, meaning that white students are receiving the majority of the merit-based scholarships. This means that race is not only a barrier to access, it can be a barrier to financial aid, and a factor that contributes to adverse levels of financial an emotional stress for students of color.

Because the LSAT is bound so tightly to rankings, law schools are further incentivized to tie scholarship money to students with higher scores. And while there is nothing wrong with merit-based scholarships, one of the effects of the real-world trends, according to LSSSE, is that students of color are effectively subsidizing the education costs of their wealthier, white counterparts.

In a profession where prestige is the primary capital, precise academic measurement tools like the LSAT have a multitude of purposes. It does have the effect of separating the better performing students from their peers. It is an effective indicator of bar passage—a metric vital to law school rankings. Unfortunately, it remains a marker of the ongoing inequity that has also become a long-term fixture in the world of legal education and beyond.

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