Let’s be honest: the USD School of Law has a bad rap around campus. Talk to faculty and students and it won’t be long before someone says something negative about the law school.
I’ve been told that if I attended the law school, I would be selling out. The recent debate about moving the law school to Sioux Falls has brought the law school into the spotlight, with one side belittling the law school and the other defending it.
I won’t pretend to be blind to issues facing the law school, but I also won’t be blind to the good things it does. Contrary to popular belief, the USD law school actually does a pretty good job.
One thing the law school does is provide a nice scholarship for incoming first-year students. The Law Honor Scholar is a scholarship given to incoming first-years. These first-years receive automatic acceptance into the law school as long as they complete various requirements in undergrad.
Belittled by some, this scholarship is actually a huge plus. It’s one of the reasons I elected to attend USD. When junior year rolls around and students are thinking about going to law school, it’s comforting to know USD Law has already (more or less) accepted them.
Having this in the back pocket greatly reduces stress, and while students still have to take the LSAT, the pressure to perform well isn’t as high.
Some people say that, while this scholarship is nice and dandy, the law school as an institution is not that great. I disagree. Of course, USD is no Harvard — nor should it be — but there’s one list USD is consistently at the top of and Harvard is nowhere to be found.
That list is the National Jurist’s Best Value Law Schools. For the last few years, USD has consistently been in the top 20. In 2017, the law school was ranked the sixth best value law school in the nation.
The ranking system compares tuition with other costs with bar passage rates, and job placement rates. Consider this: for the money, a student gets more bang for their buck by going to USD than to Yale or Harvard, or any Ivy League school for that matter.
Simply look at the numbers: Harvard’s tuition is about $93,000 per year. USD is less than $20,000 per year. USD Law may not be producing Supreme Court justices, but it does give its student an education worth the price.
For what it’s worth, USD’s law school does a pretty good job. Could they do better? Of course — there’s always room for improvement. But for a small law school to give undergraduates an opportunity while also providing an affordable education for law students in an admirable achievement, one that deserves recognition.
Gerberding is a Law Honor Scholar.