Now that we are roughly ten weeks into the 2017 applicant cycle, I thought it was time to discuss the latest round of numbers from LSAC. Looking through the analysis, though, it is not good news, so far as supporters of the scamblog movement are concerned.
LSAC started this cycle reporting a five percent decline in applicants over 2016, which has slowly been shrinking to the -1.5% mark. So far, not so controversial - as time goes by and more and more applicants surface, the delta tends to improve rather than get worse. However, if you take the LSAC data and plot it on a chart that is actually legible for once, you start to notice something odd: applicants appear to be tracking the 2014 data, which is significantly more than 2016.
Which leads to the obvious question: how can LSAC be showing declining numbers, when the plots show an improvement over 2016? That's when apples-to-apples comparisons become critical. Long story short, I believe I discovered the issue: LSAC appears to be going off pure spreadsheet numbers, but not paying close attention to which data they are comparing to what. The summary is below:
When dealing with LSAC, is it difficult to line up their "start dates" as they tend to fluctuate a bit from year to year. For example, I have to take LSAC's word that after week "1", applicants were down 5%. However, when comparing weeks "2" and "3" with the same period last year, you will see that we are off to a good start on agreement: -4.7% and -4.2% respectively.
However, starting with week "6", things start to diverge. Apparently instead of comparing 2016's "Week 6" to 2017's "Week 6", LSAC did the math on 2016's "Week 6" and 2017's "Week 5." While that comparison does yield -3.7% (per LSAC) in applicants year-over-year, the reality is that actual Week-6-to-6 (in red) shows in increase of 8.04%.
Similarly, there is a variance in Weeks 7, 8, and 10. Each time, one can calculate and arrive at LSAC's % Difference calculation, but each time it appears to be wrong. They are just going down the spreadsheet, and not comparing apples-to-apples. Comparing Week 7-to-Week 7, (Green), Week 8-to-Week 8 (Orange) and Week 10-to-Week 10 (red), the actual percentages are actually up over 2016.
When looking at the graphical data, one can see this as well. Looking at Week 10, Applicant Data shows that that 2017 is much higher that the same time in 2016. We appear to be back at 2014 levels.
Is it possible that the OTLSS analysis is off by one week, i.e. that the 2017 curve needs to be shifted to the left one week? It's possible, as again LSAC is not clear from their charting about when they start - but even then the 2017 curve would still appear to trend higher than 2016, perhaps even by a larger percentage. As LSAC does not report every week but instead skips some weeks randomly from year to year, this only adds to the potential confusion.
Unfortunately, even allowing for some fluctuation it would appear that students are somewhat changing their minds and ignoring the warnings about law school. With Indiana Tech and Charlotte and others in the news, with their blatant, craven treatment of students as nothing more than loan conduits, it boggles the mind that students would be considering law school in greater numbers, even at more highly ranked schools. Maybe they feel they have no other options. Maybe they think they can beat the odds. Maybe they are independently wealthy and a $175k price tag for a law degree means nothing to them. Who knows.
All the more reason for the scamblog community to stand firm. While a potential increase in the student crop this year is music to the ears of ScamDeans and LawPrawfs, we also know that it is a disastrous outcome for many once the student has been through the Law School Gristmill. While not everyone will heed our warnings, some do and that is the best result anyone can hope for.