I've met plenty of CBE grads, and found them to be smart and competent. (Incidentally, I've met a few top T1 grads who complete assclowns.)
I have noticed, however, that the cost of the CBE schools has increased quite a bit. The average total cost now seems to be about 50-60k. Although that's half the price of an ABA school, a student with s decent LSAT score could probably obtain enough in scholarships to a T4 ABA school to make the cost competitive.
You hit the nail on the head about career services, Roald. I don't know about other CBE schools, but mine in Sacramento offers very little other than the occasional email announcing an opening. Not that I need it. But if I ever find myself looking for work, I'll be mostly on my own. The more important thing for me is knowing that they're providing me with a solid legal education. You're right that the options for electives are limited. You take what they offer, when they offer them. Regarding tuition, mine's gone up slightly, like everything, but it's still less than $40k over four years. When you factor in the cost of casebooks, transportation, and the litany of ways that a legal education nickels and dimes you to death, it's probably over the $40k mark, but not by much. The last I heard, the most expensive CBE school in the state was down in SoCal, and it was somewhere in the $50-$55k range. I don't recall the name offhand.
The nut that state schools will never be able to crack, and why a CBE degree will always be less prestigious than an ABA degree, is that the academic credentials of the average student who enrolls in a CBE school is lower than the average T2-T3 student. I'm not convinced this necessarily holds true for all T4 schools, especially after the first-year CBE students have been separated into pass-fail categories. But CBE schools admit certain students who would never be accepted at even the lowest of ABA schools, if only to say, "Here's your chance: sink or swim." The people who do well in a CBE school would do fine at an ABA school (the course material isn't any different). But a substantial percentage of people who enroll in CBE schools either drop out or flunk out after the first year. Fortuitously, this elevates the average caliber of the student body that advances and increases the level of competition.
While CBE schools may offer otherwise unremarkable students a chance to see whether they have what it takes to become an attorney, they don't fiddle around with people whose first-year grades don't meet the minimum requirements. I was astonished last year by how mercilessly my school weeded people out. We lost about 35-40 percent of our 1E class entering the second year. But I get it: their accreditation is on the line. I'm told that the number of students who drop out after passing the first year drops precipitously over the second to fourth years, but the fact remains, a large number who were admitted should not have been there in the first place. They often left me scratching my head. Their English communication skills left too much to be desired. (At the same time, many of the writers who frequent TLS and LSD write with an unimpressive grasp of basic grammar and punctuation themselves, but that's another matter.)
In the end, you get what you pay for. I have a question: how many 1Ls at ABA schools do not make it to 2L - for whatever reason? I suspect the percentage would be much lower than at a CBE school, and that the higher the school is ranked, but lower the number would be. But just curious to hear about it.