Brian Leiter (Chicago), Are "Transformative Gifts" Really Transformative?:
Law.com has a list of naming gifts to law schools over the last few decades, with the majority coming in the last two decades. Here are the biggest gifts, by year:
1998: $115 million to the University of Arizona
2001: $30 million to Ohio State University
2008: $35 million to Indiana University, Bloomington
2011: $30 million to the University of Maryland
2013: $50 million to Chapman University
2014: $50 million to Drexel University
2015: $100 million to Northwestern University
2016: $30 million to George Mason University
2019: $50 million to Pepperdine University
2019: $125 million to the University of Pennsylvania ...
It remains to be seen whether any of these gifts will really change the strength and status of any of these schools. In ten years, we'll probably have a clearer idea of the impact given how recent many of the largest gifts are.
Robert Anderson (Pepperdine):
Today, @BrianLeiter asks whether "transformative" law school gifts are really transformative, with examples. My guess is the reason they're not is (1) much of the money isn't "real" (2) deans [spend] it on pet programs (3) Univ admin "steals" it through overhead.
Derek Muller (Pepperdine), What Makes a Donation to a Law School a "Transformative" Gift? One Idea Might Be Free Tuition For All Students:
[T]he single most dramatic thing a school could attempt to do? Make it free.
When UC-Irvine announced that its first law school incoming class would have zero tuition for all students, it was probably the single most interesting and significant law school expenditure announcement I recall in… well, recent memory for sure, and perhaps in my lifetime. It didn’t mean that some students with low LSAT & UGPA predictors would pay full tuition while subsidizing scholarships for others. It meant that the graduates would have some debt from cost of living for three years, but likely quite manageable for many. Free tuition? Hard to beat that idea. UC-Irvine admitted a highly selective class of about 60 for that first year. But it couldn’t continue it beyond the first year.
I think about recent medical schools like NYU that recently announced offering free tuition. I think about the recent commencement speaker at Morehouse College who announced he would pay off every graduate’s student loans.
It’s true that most lawyers often go on lucrative careers. But it’s also true that student loans are tough, tuition keeps rising, young graduates’ career choices are often defined by repaying loans or debt forgiveness program compliance, not to mention the life choices that come from it.
It’s true that it would require a lot of present cash to create this option—or, at least, some cash followed by the announcement and vigorous fundraising off it. A non-trivial number of law schools have budgets of less than $25 million a year, and a $500 million gift could endow the entire annual budget. A $1 billion gift would endow a $50 million budget. Essentially, such types of massive infusions would truly transform legal education.