Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuition at Some Public Law Schools Rising Rapidly/Will The Public Law School Disappear ? reports that tuition at some public law schools has risen dramatically this year, as schools attempt to offset reductions in state appropriations and endowment income.

The article, by Karen Sloan and entitled: can be found here:

Sloan reports the following tuition increases taking effect this fall:

1) Indiana Bloomington, 25 percent;

2) UC Davis, 19 percent;

3) Iowa, "nearly 20 percent;"

4) Texas, 16 percent;

5) U. Colorado, 16 percent.

The article also notes that some public law schools have held down their tuition increases, citing UVA and the University of Michigan as examples. Both schools, however, already charge in-state tuition much higher than the schools listed above. In state tuition at Michigan is now $43,200 per year, while in-state tuition at UVA is $38,800. Compare that to Indiana, which is just under $25,000, Iowa, which is at $21,400, and Colorado, at $25,400. Virginia receives no state support whatsoever and thus presumably is pricing at what the market will bear. Michigan, according to the article, receives only 3 percent of its budget from the state. (No doubt the proportion of state support is falling at other "public" schools as well.)

Sloan also notes that some schools are concerned that higher tution will reduce access to the schools in question, therefore compromising what many see as their mission of providing such access to the legal profession. At the same time, and in may view, one might conclude that legislators, the ultimate representatives of the public, have decided that such access is not worth the cost of providing it. Schools that nonetheless keep their tuition artifically low will thereby be furthering a mission of their own making, and not one that can be characterized as necessarily flowing from their public status.

In any event, it's hard to imagine state legislatures reversing the recent trend of declining to provide increased or even level financial support to public law schools. When it comes to support for education, K-12 education always goes to the head of the line. This is not surprising because: (1) K-12 teachers are often unionized and thus well-organized politically and (2) save for those who attend private schools, all children in a state attend such schools at one time or another, thereby enhancing the magnitude of public support for such expenditures. By contrast, many children, upon graduation from high school (if they do graduate) do not attend college at all or, if they do, attend a school in another state. Hence, support for investments in higher education are is predictably weaker than support for investments in K-12 education. And, of course, college faculties are often not unionized and thus lack the political muscle found among K-12 teachers.

Perhaps, 50 years from now, we will look back and view the state-funded law school as a sort of anomalous relic.