As President Obama continued his swing through upstate New York yesterday to talk about college debt, he offered a concrete suggestion to the nation's law schools: Ditch the traditional third year. “This is probably controversial to say, but, what the heck, I’m in my second term, so I can say it,” said the president in Binghamton, as quoted by BuzzFeed. “Law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.” Instead of going to lectures, third-year law students should gain real-world experience by clerking at a law firm, even for low pay. "That step alone would reduce the costs for the student.”
With his suggestion, Obama waded "into a hotly debated issue inside the beleaguered legal academy," writes Peter Lattman at the New York Times. Calls for reform are mounting as tuition rises and new law school grads struggle to find work. Schools would take a financial hit under such a move, but Obama said they could handle it "if they thought creatively." The former constitutional law professor knows all about the issue first-hand. Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times reports that he took out $42,753 in loans for Harvard Law alone, and Michelle just slightly less. They weren't able to pay off the debt until 2004, and only then because Obama signed a $1.9 million book deal.