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Closius on debt, future of law schools

Today’s Maryland Lawyer cover story is our interview with Phil Closius, dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law. One thing he said that I couldn’t fit into the story is that the average UB student graduates with about $90,000 in debt.

He once recited that figure to an alum and his daughter, a prospective student. “That high?” the father said. “That’s all?” the daughter said.

The figure is “on the low side” for law schools, Closius said, but he sees it the way alum does.

“If you come to UB, the bulk of students are going to have to be able to deal with a $90,000 debt service on a $65,000-a-year salary,” he said. “That’s not easy.”

The school, incidentally, has raised tuition 77 percent in the last 7 years.

Watch video from the Newsmakers interview with Dean Closius

“The only thing that justifies it is, so is everyone else in the law school world,” Closius said.

In that vein, I asked him about the future of law schools; a recent law review article predicts there will be   fewer law schools in the years to come. Closius said he believes law schools will close or shrink in size.

“The pressures are becoming too strong,” he said. “If you’re not producing jobs, if you’re not giving people the economics that make sense, you’re going to get hurt. And I think it’s going to happen soon.”

Just not at UB, he was quick to add.

“I don’t think we’re closing,” he said. “We’re on the good side.”