After cuts, Law School eyes future

A 50 percent cut in two years translates to increased tuition.
October 26, 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 percent to 11 percent in two years.

The results of this cut include a 13.5 percent 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.

“The administration is doing a good job given the situation,” University senior attorney Carl Warren said. “Everybody recognizes it’s a difficult time and hard choices are being made … Sacrifices are necessary.”

The address was casual and was predominately a question-and-answer session for students to voice their opinions and concerns.

“I feel like students aren’t afraid to give feedback because the administration is so open,” said first-year law student Derek Chin. “The thing that impresses me most about this school is that no one claims to be perfect, but everyone is willing to accept feedback.”

While cuts have been drastic, Wippman said that since endowment is just beginning to become a viable part of the school’s budget, “We didn’t suffer as much.”

Wippman compared the Harvard and Yale University law schools, which don’t rely on state support.

“Yale, which [has] half of its spending coming from the endowment, experiences a 30 percent decline in the endowment value. They feel that.”

To help bolster private funds at the University, the Law School’s two alumni advisory boards were merged.

The new board has raised about $10 million since 2009 and has numerous distinguished members, including former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Wippman said endowments are beginning to escalate, though he doesn’t have the same view on state funding.

Some at the address said they felt as though the Law School was moving toward not using state funding at all.

“We’re not there yet, but let’s not say we won’t get there,” Wippman said.

“Our funding sources will look very different than how they did in the past,” he said. “The University of Virginia, eight or nine years ago, said, ‘OK, we are going to decline to accept any support from the state, we are going to go wholly self-sufficient financially,’ and that allowed them to present a very clear message to their alumni and their fundraising went way up. So, you can reach a tipping point.”

Wippman said there are still uncertainties and tough decisions to come. Still, students walked away feeling satisfied.

“I think it’s a pretty realistic perspective of how it’s going,” said first-year law student Elizabeth Graber. “It’s not great, but it’s not terrible either. I think, looking forward, he’s hopeful, and I think [students are] hopeful.”

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