Fleecing State Budgets From West to East Coast: Paying the Price for Law Schools’ New Campuses

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

This story first ‘broke’ October 29, 2008, with a series of concurrent press releases provided on the law school’s website here: New Campus Goes Live | Thomas Jefferson School of Law. This very first press release: states “We have the funds to complete this project,” Dean Hasl said to the cheers of the audience, acknowledging the turbulent financial climate.[Groundbreaking Story | Thomas Jefferson School of Law]. Interesting how the school decided just at the beginning of the current recession to move forward with plans to build the new campus for the law school. I am confident they do have the money–between state funds and their cut of student loan debt incurred by current and incoming law students.  Yesterday, a news magazine reported on the San Diego law school’s progress to schedule to open in 2011: [

Downtown’s New Law School | San Diego Metro Magazine July 6, 2010] and prior press releases attempts to excite the reader with archeological finds, the technological advanced construction of the building and an irrelevant statement regarding the school’s need to return to its roots:

While that question will require further examination, Rudy Hasl, dean of the 41-year-old law school since 2005, can say for certain that the new law school building — one of the newest structures in East Village — will offer state-of-the-art features that students will find fascinating when classes begin next January. These include a computer center, wireless access and audio video capabilities throughout the eight-story structure, expansive view terraces on the fifth and eighth floors and a roof that supports a 50 kilowatt solar array with 270 modules. The school is seeking LEED Gold certification for the building from the U.S. Green Building Council. Also included are two learning centers, a moot courtroom, two recording studios, five conference rooms, an executive board room and a 40,000-square-foot library with future space for a café, bookstore and a law clinic. Three levels of parking below the building will offer 177 parking spaces.

The Dean even brags about how his school is accredited. That’s a bragging right for a 4th tier school I guess.

Throughout most of these releases and articles, the speaker rarely mentions the benefit to potential law students and graduates and their potential to earn an income from this 4th Tier school [Rankings – Best Law Schools – Graduate Schools – Education – US News and World Report].

From what I have observed, it appears most institutions and companies do not invest in people. They invest in their institutions that are benefitted by people but will use them to the extent the bottom of the toothpast tube is flat, then toss. I often hear people say we need more engineers, but notice that alot of middle, high school and even some undergraduate universities do not invest in this quality education and training so our country becomes more reliant on non-Americans to improve our technologies. Of course, someone will argue that constructing a new building will help motivate new law students by giving them an enhanced educational environment. Yet, some of the most gifted and talented persons are from humble backgrounds, some of the most intelligent ones do not attend school and those who did, the focus was on gaining knowledge with the ability to tap into innovative ideas to improve their communities and economy. This was decades ago, now it seems that we have mistaken rennovation as innovation, that’s why the legal industry hasn’t changed with the times, but has worsened. Instead of taken cost-effective measures for law schools and law students, an elite few have decided that law school is a franchise. Anyway…

 Since these schools are state supported, I was curious as to the extent of state funds were granted to these fine institutions. Before we delve into this, let’s be reminded that according to a recent post at Above the Law, many recent law graduates are flooding government offices to volunteer for 2 available internships in one California county. [ ‘The Job Market Is Even Worse Than Many of Us Thought’ « Above the Law: A Legal Tabloid – News, Gossip, and Colorful Commentary on Law Firms and the Legal Profession]. That’s right, in one of the hardest hit states of the current economic recession, attorneys are flocking to work for free with nearly insurmountable debt has a  STATE funded school spending money on a pretty building, to match its shiny brochures.

When I was researching information concerning this one, I actually lost track of which law school I was researching, but here’s the list:

1. Stanford Law School
2. U.C. Berkeley – Boalt Hall
3. UCLA Law School
4. USC Law School
5. U. California Davis Law School (King Hall)
6. U. California Hastings Law School
7. U. of San Diego Law School
8. Loyola Law School
9. Santa Clara Law School
10. U. of San Francisco
11. Pepperdine Law School
12. U. of the Pacific (McGeorge)
13. Southwestern U. Law School
14. Chapman U. Law School
15. Whittier U. Law School
16. Golden Gate U. Law School
17. California Western Law School
18. Thomas Jefferson Law School

Earlier this year Thomas Jefferson School of Law breaks new ground, San Diego Law School was working to merge with California Western law school. (Let’s point out that according to one source, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law was simply a separate campus of California Western before it decided to become a separate entity). California Western is a for UCSD looking at a law school – SignOnSanDiego.com, January 28, 2010

Critics question whether the school could be self-supporting and whether there’s a mismatch between UCSD’s research focus and California Western’s emphasis on teaching. Some also doubt the need for such a school, considering there are already five UC law schools.

“I think this has more to do with the aspirations of the university than the people of San Diego saying there is a need for it,” said Patrick Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, an independent nonprofit based in San Jose. “If the argument is it eases faculty collaborations, what are the impediments for that collaboration now? The notion that you can’t collaborate unless you’re part of the same entity is absurd.” Even the head of the university disagrees with the law schools merger, though subtle: 

UCSD Chancellor Marye Anne Fox has not taken a position on the partnership, but said the project would only move forward if it enhances legal research while not undermining other university investments. She said it’s important that no public funds be spent on the school, at least for the first several years.“I wouldn’t approve anything in these tight economic times that were not completely self-supporting for the foreseeable future,” Fox said.

It’s like different law schools contract and expands, grows legs and repeat. Let’s focus, who’s paying for this new shiny campus amidst one of California’s most hemmoraghing budget deficit. There is no clear indication where all of the funds are sourced. Since it’s a public law school we’ll have to presume the State of California paid for a certain amount and the rest from endowments and profits made from student loans.

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