Unicorns or Ligers? Law school for under $2500/yr with no curve?

27 de agosto de 2017

Once upon a time, in a distant and mystical land, law schools offered students affordable tuitions, a collaborative atmosphere, and training programs after graduation as part of the requirement to become an attorney.

And, in this land, law students paid $2320.61 per year to get a law degree.  Aspiring lawyers entered law school right after high school, getting a bachelors and a masters, requiring at most only 5 years of tuition payments for both undergrad and law studies!  Plus, if a law student chose to work really hard, they could finish everything in 4 years!

At these magical law schools, there was no curve, and students sent each other all of their notes from the semester with glee:

“Want all of my notes from the semester?  Sure, no problem. Want my outline?  Of course.  Right away.  Sharing is caring after all”.

The students studied to master knowledge of the material rather than to beat each other’s scores, and the motto was:

“If I get a high score on the test, that’s great, but I really hope everyone else does well too!”

By the time graduation rolls around and students consider their job options, they don’t choose a job to pay off loans but a job that they think would be “challenging” or “interesting”, whatever that may be.

And you might be wondering, how do these cheerful law students get to their magical schools?  Do they have flying buses like in Harry Potter?  Do they have hovercrafts like in Hunger Games?  Do they teleport like in Star Trek?

Do they rock it out on Segues?

Ok.  I won’t let the suspense kill you.  It’s basic public transport, except that it’s . . . FREE!

WHAT’S THE MORAL OF THIS STORY?

Law schools don’t all look the same across the world.  (Duh!)

And, maybe, we can learn from our friends in Holland and other countries.  Oh yes!

THIS SYSTEM EXISTS IN THE REAL WORLD.  

Although I am quite certain that you were tricked by its fairy tale style, the story above was based on the actual words of a Dutch law student who offered research on Holland’s legal education system (see below).

WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE A LAW STUDENT IN HOLLAND?  READ MORE BELOW:

ELEMENTARY MY DEAR WATSON!

Between the ages of four to twelve, children attend elementary school. After attending elementary education, Dutch children go directly to high school. A high school usually offers three levels of education and on the basis of the advice of the elementary school and a national aptitude test a choice of level is made. The highest level in high school has six grades and prepares the students for scientific education. Scientific education is only taught at universities and is organized as follows: After the bachelor’s program (typically 3 years), pupils can enroll in a master’s program (typically 1–2 years) or enter the job market.

TRAINEESHIP PROGRAMS

So if you want to study law in the Netherlands, you go to law school right after high school. You first have to obtain your bachelor degree, after which you can enroll in a master’s program. If you want to become an attorney, a prosecutor or a judge, you have to obtain a master degree (but there are also jobs for which a Bachelor’s of law is sufficient). To become an attorney, you have to do a traineeship for about three years in a law firm, after you graduated. In order to become a prosecutor or a judge, you have to do a few more years of education as well.  If you work in a public interest or for the government, this does not count as being a trainee. If you want to become an attorney, you have to do a traineeship in a law firm.

GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIZES LEGAL EDUCATION

Since the government subsidizes education in the Netherlands, tuition is generally € 1,771 a year (tuition per year = $2320.61). If you have not obtained your bachelor degree after four years yet, you have to pay a ‘fine’ of € 3000 per extra year. If you have not obtained your master degree after two years yet, you also have to pay a ‘fine’ of €3000 per extra year. This way, the government tries to prevent that students will take many years to graduate. So, basically, the government incentivizes you to finish on time.

Recently the Dutch government decided that it will only subsidize one bachelor and one master degree. If you want to obtain more degrees, you have to pay the full amount, which can vary from € 7,000 to € 30,000, depending on study and university (but for law the full amount will be around € 9,000 per year at most universities).

FINANCIAL AID

The types of financial aid from the Dutch government:

– “Prestatiebeurs“ (basic grant)

For four years students who are not living at home, are eligible for “Prestatiebeurs“, a basic grant of up to 265 Euro monthly. If a student obtains a degree within ten years, (s)he does not have to pay this back. If a student does not obtains a degree within ten years, the grant changes to a loan and the student have to pay all the money (including interest) back.

For students who live at home, this amount is around 90 EURO monthly.  Also more grants:

-“Aanvullende beurs“ (follow-up grant)

“Aanvullende beurs“, the follow-up grant, which is based on parental income.

INTEREST BEARING LOANS

Students entitled to financial support are able to borrow money as well. The interest rate for the loan depends on the interest rate of certain Dutch government. Students have to pay their student loan back in fifteen years.

FREE TRANSPORTATION

– OV-Card (free public transport)

There is a choice of two types of tickets:

* Valid on working days

* Valid at weekends and on public holidays

For journeys outside the explicit ticket times, there is also a discount of 40% for train travel and a reduction for travel by bus, tram or underground.

NO CURVE

In Holland we do not have the curve, but an absolute grade system. This means that in principle it is possible that all the students fail a certain course. Because there is no curve system, a student’s grade does not depend on the grades of other students. This makes the atmosphere between students less competitive, which means that in general notes and outlines are shared.

LOWERED PRESSURE FROM DEBT

As far as I know, people do not have to choose jobs out of pressure to pay back debt. Although the average amount of debt is rising, in general students don’t have student loans as high as some American students. Besides, you pay a lower interest rate and you have 15 years to pay back your student loan.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOLLAND? WELL, DON’T GIVE UP NOW, READ ON!:

EMPLOYMENT – TOUGH TIMES EVERYWHERE

As in most countries, it is hard to get a job in the Netherlands these days, especially in the field of criminal law.

TAX TRIVIA FOR YOU NUMBER CRUNCHING FIENDS

The Dutch tax system integrates the income tax with fees paid for the basic old-age pension system, the pension system for partners of deceased people and the national insurance system for special medical care. In this article the term “tax” is used for the total of the income tax and the fees.

For the part of income up to € 18,945:                                       33.1%

For the part of income between €18,945 and €33,863:                  41.95%;

For the part of income between €33,863 and €56,491:                  42%

On all income over €56,491: 52%

HEALTHCARE FOR YOUR HEALTH NUTS

Healthcare in the Netherlands is financed by a dual system that came into effect in January 2006. Long-term treatments, especially those that involve semi-permanent hospitalization, and also disability costs such as wheelchairs, are covered by a state-controlled mandatory insurance. For all regular (short-term) medical treatment, there is a system of obligatory health insurance, with private health insurance companies. These insurance companies are obliged to provide a package with a defined set of insured treatments.

A key feature of the Dutch system is that premiums may not be related to health status or age. Risk variances between private health insurance companies due to the different risks presented by individual policy holders are compensated through risk equalization and a common risk pool.

Affordability is guaranteed through a system of income-related allowances and individual and employer-paid income-related premiums. Those on low incomes receive compensation to help them pay their insurance. Premiums paid by the insured are about €130 per month

Other sources of health care payment are taxes, out of pocket payments, additional optional health insurance packages and a range of other sources.

Some reflections:

  • Of course, different nations have unique limitations for what law schools can or cannot be depending on the culture, traditions, governments, and regulations, but isn’t it nice to dream for a little?  
  • And, further, when discussing the point of view of a Dutch law student on what he thought was “the American Dream”, isn’t it a bit disheartening to learn that his experience in the United States made him lose faith in this dream?  
  • Who has greater social mobility entering the legal field – a student facing $60,000/year in tuition for 3 years plus often $40,000/year in tuition for 4 years of undergraduate studies, or a student entering into a program at under $2,500 a year?  

I’m not good with numbers, being a law student and all, but maybe you can do the math.

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