Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Boalt Hall Price Hike Inevitable?

By Lauren Gard
Wed, Mar 14, 2007 at 3:28 PM

UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall currently ranks #8 among the country's top law schools, as determined by U.S News and World Report. But it's not high enough for dean Christopher Edley Jr., who aims to shake down students for 16% more a year for the next five years in an attempt to break into the venerable top five. (The UC Board of Regents meets tomorrow to consider a 10% increase in fees for law and business schools.) Boalt students currently pay $25,477 a year in tuition and fees - far less than the $40,000 or more many of its private competitors demand. The L.A. Times reports that "Edley wants to use the money to hire more professors and improve the school's aging facilities. Without a long-term commitment for more funds, he predicts an exodus of top faculty - and his own departure. 'Life is short,' he says."

Edley seems to think students will side with him - "Overwhelmingly, our students are interested in a great education, not a cheap one," he told the Times. Do they? A sample of the two-dozen plus reactions posted on the student-run blog, Nuts & Boalts:

*** what does it mean for boalt to "rise"? can we get a meaningful indicator of boalt's "fall," outside of us news and world report rankings?

*** In our race to the top of a superficial-but-powerful ranking system, are we throwing out an essential part of Boalt's identity? Students do want, and get, a great education from Boalt. And our current tuition is anything but cheap. ... If Boalt wants to go to the top, then let it be as a leader. Bring down the tuition. Or at least hold the line. Part of Boalt's appeal is our bad-ass institutional culture. We can stand out by being the school that didn't sell out to the insanity.

*** "Political reality and good social policy tell you it doesn't make sense to ask a cannery worker in Fresno to subsidize the education of students who are going to go off and make these salaries," Edley said. There are no canneries in Fresno. I understand Edley's from the east coast, and I didn't know there were no canneries in Fresno until I checked, but this doesn't help him look more Californian."

*** Without a long-term commitment for more funds, he predicts an exodus of top faculty - and his own departure. I don't know if it's wise to threaten his own departure. What's to stop the Regents and/or faculty from saying - fine, leave? I've heard that the alumni fundraising plan is falling well behind schedule. I can't help but wonder if this has anything to do with Edley's focus & mission for Boalt.

***Dean Edley is a visionary. He's not going to be popular for suggesting we pay more, but we're getting such a good deal going here that I'm certainly willing to pay an extra $2k a year to go here. I wholeheartedly second the "good not cheap" sentiment. After all, most of us who got into Boalt could have had a full ride at many lower-ranked schools.

*** We don't even have a clean, functioning women's (or men's?) bathroom in the entire school. That doesn't speak well for the state of the school's finances. Maddening.

**His speech about Boalt being a great PUBLIC law school was a big draw for me, personally. Without a mission to serve the public (not just law firms), we're just a law school with old facilities and a giving base that lags far behind our "peer schools."

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