There is a disturbing trend in higher education. African-American enrollment at law schools around the nation has declined. A Congressional Black Caucus forum last Friday, hosted by Congressman John Conyers Jr. and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, addressed this issue and provided insight on what panelists said was the root of the problem; the misuse of the LSAT.
The LSAT is the national standardized test that students interested in graduate law school must take in order to be considered for law school. It isn’t the only determining factor but John Brittian, moderator for the session said, “law schools don’t want to take a chance.”
The forum, The Decline in African-American Enrollment in Law School included panelists from all aspects of the law profession such as Vanita Banks, president-elect of the National Bar Association: E. Christopher Johnson, General Motors representative: John Nussbaumer from Thomas Cooley Law School and many others.
The average LSAT score for African-American is 142. Nussbaumer, Associate Dean at Thomas Cooley Law School said that there has been some alarming statistics and trends including black law students. According to Nussbaumer, 85 percent of black applicants who scored 145 on the LSAT were turned away.
The LSAT affects many other aspects of the decline in African-American enrollment. Banks said that this issue is bigger than it seems. “This issue is about us; black lawyers, black students and our pipeline.”
The pipeline Banks speaks about is the pipeline that connects the LSAT to the graduate school that eventually leads to becoming a lawyer.
Nussbaumer said that the most “disturbing”? statistic is the admissions rate. According to Nussbaumer 63 percent of black applicants were denied admission into law schools and this statistic is important to the declining rate of black students because it completely stifles these students from starting a career in law.
Nussbaumer said that law schools also have placed heavy emphasis on test scores in effort to raise their U.S News & World Report ranking which makes it harder for African-Americans.
“Efforts during the past 10 years to diversify America’s law schools by enrolling more African-American students have failed because those responsible for law school admissions and accreditation practices have created a de facto and racially discriminatory quota system that restricts African American access to the legal profession,” he wrote in the St. Johns Law Review.
The forum covered a wide range of topics but particularly made a special attempt to offer solutions to close this widening racial gap at American law schools.
Dwayne Murray Esq., representative from Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, said that the solution starts with guidance.”Leaders should embark on a mission to make sure that the youth receive the proper guidance,”? said Murray.