Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Like every other college at the University of Minnesota, the Law School is facing a litany of budget woes, including a daunting cut in state funding from 22% to 11% in two years.
The results of this cut include a 13.5% increase in tuition this academic year and a 1.15% percent pay cut for faculty in the 2011 fiscal year.
Dean David Wippman revealed all this in the State of the Law School address to about 60 students Monday at Mondale Hall. Wippman explained how the Law School plans to maintain quality through difficult times by focusing on alumni outreach, namely for fundraising purposes and mentoring current students.
We're obviously moving toward a segmented market in public legal education. There will be top-tier schools that want to compete with their private brethren. This means staying nose to nose with private schools on both faculty compensation and course load. It also means investing in institutes, centers, and programs that facilitate research. As a practical political matter, it's going to be near impossible for any state school to achieve this without amping tuition beyond $30K. We've already seen the Berkeley/Virginia/Michigan move and the real question is which other schools intend to follow that model. (I would have guessed Minnesota, among others.) Then there will be the remainder of state schools that temper their commitment to super high-end hiring and retention with the practical reality that state governments neither desire, nor can afford, a Lexus law school.
The interesting question is where these decisions will be made. Will faculties decide they want to support and grow elite programs, moving strategically to reduce or eliminate state subsidies? Or will university administrations, or state governments, insist that tuitions remain low - insuring that their state law schools are affordable and signaling that access is an extremely important value. (The UC system may be pursuing a third model -- one a tad more redistributive -- featuring high sticker prices and unusually expansive need-based financial aid.)
In a world of unlimited resources, one law school can be everything to everyone. As things now stand, however, law schools are forced to make critical choices.