Monday, March 12, 2007

Build Me Up

Great article in today's LA Times (Hattip to the Bashman) about Dean Edley's pitch to the UC Regents about proposed fee hikes. Read the whole thing. I side with the Edley/Allen side. Realistically, the fees have to go up if we want to see Boalt on the rise. One serious problem though that's sort of implied in the Herrera quote but not really flushed out is potential students from lower economic backgrounds. This problem hit me a few years ago when I told a friend she's basically SOL if she has horrible credit while applying to law school and she can't find someone to be a co-signer.

Anyway, those are my substantive thoughts. Here are a few excerpts that caught my attention.

"'Overwhelmingly, our students are interested in a great education, not a cheap one,' he says."

"Without a long-term commitment for more funds, he predicts an exodus of top faculty — and his own departure."

"Some of its lecture halls haven't been renovated since they were built in the 1950s. They still have their original acoustic wall tiles and linoleum floors, and the chairs and tables are bolted to the floor, making it difficult for students to work on their laptops."

"The average student graduates with about $65,000 in law school debts, he said." [I don't have the figures, so this MIGHT be right, but I'm graduating closer to 100K in debt. I mean if you divide that by 3, it doesn't even cover the fees we were charged, let alone cost of living]

"Over time it would give his law school significantly more funding than the other two UC law schools, at Davis and UCLA." [Bye bye Hastings. It was nice knowing you.]

"'Boalt is not Davis,' he said. 'Law is not nursing.'"

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30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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?

3/12/2007 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We haven't had a Supreme Court justice since Earl Warren.

3/12/2007 12:14 PM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

The LAT article draws attention to the fact that Edley would use a fee hike to further subsidize (via LRAP) those who take lower-paying public interest jobs on graduation.

At some point applicants who expect to work in the private sector will rebel at this. Two possible results: fewer and/or lower quality applicants with that set of aspirations; those in that group who do apply will be (even more) self-selectedly liberal, making Boalt (even more) politically homogeneous.

I say this both because liberals tend to be more open to income-redistribution that cuts against their own economic interests and because most of the "public interest" work subsidized by LRAP is on the liberal side, so applicants expecting to pay their own loans will have to be comfortable with the fact that they are in effect making a substantial personal contribution to a group of mostly-liberal causes over whose composition and mission they will have no control.

I think this is a serious concern, although I recognize there are a couple of factors likely to mitigate the number-and-quality-of-applicants concern: even a post-hike Boalt will be a pretty good deal, relative to most of its peers. Also, there are already a lot of applicants, and probably you could throw a lot of them out of the pool without appreciably worsening the quality of admitted students. Neither of these mitigates the political-homogeneity concern. Of course, many Boalties may not regard that as a negative.

Also, I'm sure there's a definition of qualifying employment for LRAP somewhere on the school website. Can someone point me to it?

3/12/2007 12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only if you assume that all public-interest jobs that qualify for LRAP are "liberal". My admittedly limited understanding of Boalt's LRAP program is that those enterng public defender and prosecutorial jobs would also qualify.

Those jobs can be springboards for any number of legal positions. Many potential litigators who want to do "big firm" work may start out in the prosecutor's office in order to actually get litigation experience.

3/12/2007 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean Edley is great and I applaud both his drive to see our institution grow and his obvious commitment to a diverse and dynamic student and faculty body. But I think tuition hikes are a big mistake.

I'm all for a classroom that doesn't blow cold air on me for "heat" during a cold spell (ie: rm. 105). But can a tuition hike raise enough capital to buy Boalt's slot at the top?

Raising tuition may actually hinder our ability to solicit top students. Applicants do consider tuition, especially those from low income background and those seeking to practice in the public sector. Many of us also consider whether or not our institution of choice is public or private. As it stands, our tuition fees take us dangerously close to the PINO precipice -- public in name only.

I wonder if we have the financial endowment to compete with other schools that have higher tuitions but offer stellar financial aid packages. And at a certain price tag, students are going to want all the little perks that come with the fee, including the pretty buildings and administrative hand-holding. Sure, maybe the school is finally willing to buck-up with free blue books for exams now that an estimated 95% of the class takes exams on computers. But what about fancy parties and swag electronic set-ups? I mean, how many years of tuition hikes do you need before you get the heat? The seminar space? The new building?

And is our little portion really going to cover that? Probably not. We're not going to be the ones that buy Boalt a new house. Heck, with higher tuition fees we won't even be able to buy our own houses, much less sock away for a kid's education. I wonder where the kids will apply while mommy is paying off her law school loans. I guess mommy better take that ridiculously high-paying firm job to represent ridiculously high paid clients. I'm sure she can outsource the child-rearing to several nannies. Way to be revolutionary, Boalt.

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. Apparently, when it comes to debt loads, Boalt is like Lake Wobegon, where all the students are above average. I'm trying to get out with only $100k and all of my friends appear to be in the same boat.

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. There's got to be another way to find the funds, or keep more of the funds that are already coming in to the law school at the law school. I hope our Dean can tell us what that way is. What needs to happen and how much needs to be raised to avoid tuition hikes?

A truly great education is a public one. Lets keep Boalt great.

3/12/2007 2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Issac, I think another way to look at the lrap program is that it is back-end need based financial aid. Need-based financial aid while in law school to those who will make 160k upon graduation never made much sense to me. in a zero sum world, who needs aid more, a person from a humble background who graduates with 100k of debt but will work at a large firm and make 160k, or someone from the same background and the same debt-load who does service oriented legal work and makes 45k?

Also, i'm not sure i agree with you that the work subsidized is inherently liberal. don't conservatives (or non-liberals) care about poor people too? or is it really incomprehensible that a non-liberal would be drawn to direct services work on behalf of the public?

also, assuming they pay below 58k a year, someone working at the pacific legal foundation would qualify to have his or her loans paid back.

also, i would venture to say that the lrap program is in the aggregate a draw for students of every political persuasion, since more people enter law school thinking they're going to do public interest work than actually do.

3/12/2007 3:07 PM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

If DE thinks he's going to compete with UVA and Michigan by charging the same tuition he's wrong. Students don't see just tuition when they look at law school costs, they see the total price, including cost of living. If you're a poor, intelligent student from Mississippi and are looking to go to either Michigan, UVA or Boalt each with 28K in tuition, you're going to see that Ann Arbor and Charlottesville are about 5K cheaper/year places to live. That makes a big difference if your otherwise indifferent between the three schools.

Raising the student fees just increases the disparity between the three top public schools. Not that DE can do anything about cost-of-living, DS is just sick of seeing this admnistration not care about it.

3/12/2007 3:36 PM  
Blogger Disco Stu said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/12/2007 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to 3:07's inquiry about whether non-liberals care about poor people, I think that statement doesn't take into account of two important points:

(1) Liberals and conservatives differ in what they think is the best way to help poor people;
(2) Many non-profit jobs are not as irrefutably good as "helping poor people," at least from the point of view of a non-liberal.

For an example of the first part, religious conservatives generally don't like programs like welfare or rent control, but churches do a significant amount of service to the poor community through things like free meal programs and habitat for humanity. Thus, these conservatives will not view a "public interest" career dedicated to increasing welfare benefits or rent control as being in their public interest, even if they do want to help the poor. A school like Boalt will disproportionately generate students working for causes that lean further left, which these conservatives may not think even result in a net good.

For an example of the second part, I would imagine that the organization responsible for trying to get Germany to criminally prosecute John Yoo also counts as a "public interest" organization that would be subject to LRAP, as would an organization dedicated to pursuing policy changes in response to Global Warming, as would an organization dedicated to preserving the right to bear arms, as would an organization fighting affirmative action as illegal discrimination. All of these are much more contentious than "helping poor people," yet can be identified by as "public interest" work by their proponents. Boalt will produce more students interest in pursuing the first two goals than the latter two.

3/12/2007 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dean Edley is correct to advocate for fee raises. Boalt's excellence is of critical importance to students who are already investing tens of thousands of dollars in their legal education. We'll take out marginally more loans to maintain a great school with a world-class faculty. Tuition hikes alone don't comprise a long-term solution. Boalt's capital campaign needs to be a success and its endowment must grow. But tuition hikes may still be necessary to stabilize our excellence both in the short- and long-term.

Like any other top school, Boalt can now soften the blow of market tuition for students genuinely interested in public sector jobs through its generous LRAP program

As for the students who themselves or their families have such horrible credit that they cannot obtain student loans, I feel for them. And, one day, Boalt should have sufficiently robust financial aid to help those students out. I'm giving money to the school to improve its financial aid. But I'm not going to let consideration for those students put Boalt's prestige and excellence in peril. If you can't co-sign your way to getting the loans you need to attend a top-10 law school, then go to a marginally cheaper law school, if you can even find one (remember even Tier 2-4 law schools cost about the same as Tier-1 schools; some blogs have noted that such law schools may be intentionally deceiving their students about their true job prospects [the unlikelihood of scoring a Biglaw job] so as to dupe them into thinking that taking out $100 grand of loans for a legal education is a great investment).

3/12/2007 4:38 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Wow.

Lots to chew on in that article. Some quick points:

1.

"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.

So... there are a lot of ways to interpret this. One is that Edley wants the whole school to go private and take the burden off the backs of California's cannery workers, et al. Another is just that he only wants said cannery worker's tax dollars to subsidize certain types of law students. It's an interesting quote, and without more context hard to interpret.

1.1. 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. (The nearest canneries are down 99 in Kingsburg and over in Hanford)

2.

"Boalt is not Davis," he said. "Law is not nursing."

This caused my jaw to drop. I hope Dean Edley was misquoted. This was amazingly disrespectful to our colleagues at Davis (where some of our professors also teach) and to all of the nurses in California. What shocked me is -- how are they different? How does Boalt's mission to train lawyers different from Davis'? How is teaching law different from teaching nursing? I'd reckon that nursing is a more expensive program to run than law because of the facilities costs, and the students' diminished ability to borrow $40K a year. What blows me a way is that I see no need for this sleight. This isn't as bad as some political flubs and misstatements, but geez.

3.

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. I'm not sure how many alumni with the ability to donate money want to donate it to Edley's assorted social justice projects. I can only speak personally, but when I made my donation at the fundraiser, I made sure to check BCLT as my funding restriction because it's the part of Boalt that's worked best for me, by far. It's been two and a half years since Edley started - the honeymoon's over.

--

I think those few comments will be enough to get me in trouble for now. But seriously -- Boalt isn't Davis? Law isn't nursing? Not very good strategery.

3/12/2007 4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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 wholehearedly 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.

3/12/2007 4:55 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Tom, I have to disagree with you. I've heard DE during his townhalls (speaking of which, what the hell happened to the one that was scheduled last week? When's the next one? I feel like there have been a crapload of new developments this year that I'd like official word on) and he always emphasizes Boalt's role as the flagship public law school in California.

This isn't meant to be a diss at Davis, UCLA, or Hastings. The reality is we are different. Outside of California, the other schools do not bring in the pull that Boalt does. They are regional schools. Fordham is a great law school if you like NY, but it's not NYU or Columbia. The underlying point that DE's trying to make is we really can't meet OUR mission with the budget plans that also apply to Davis. We really can't budget for directors of the centers that he plans to open, additional faculty to run them, etc. on a yearly budget cycle that's as fickle as a tri delt (kidding).

I just wish there was a way to lift UCLA law school out of the ground and transplant it here. Now there's a law library you can be proud of.

3/12/2007 5:05 PM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

And re: "law's not nursing," DE might be saying that law, unlike nursing, doesn't have broad popular support and admiration in the (tax-paying) electorate. I.e. those imaginary Fresno cannery workers may be perfectly happy to subsidize the education of nurses who will eventually care for them and their families at relatively low wages, but rightfully (or not) reluctant to subsidize the education of people who will facilitate the liquidity of the capital markets while getting paid astronomical salaries.

If you turn on the TV, you see story after story about the nursing shortage. I have yet to see similar coverage of the legal profession. I look forward to it, but I have yet to see it.

I agree, however, that this was an unfortunate quotation--absent context or explanation.

3/12/2007 5:38 PM  
Blogger Isaac Zaur said...

And re: threatening to leave: I'm sympathetic to DE's frustration. However.

This is at least the second time he's been quoted saying this or something like it in a major paper. My opinion is that when you lead an institution it's acceptable to threaten to leave exactly once--and in private. Then you either leave or don't leave. I don't have any doubt that DE could find rewarding work elsewhere, and I would certainly understand if he left, and I hope he stays, but what I would be very sorry to see is a long-running grudge match between him and the Regents. That would be bad for everyone.

3/12/2007 5:44 PM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

Tom, all due respect, but BCLT needs your money? So Professor Menell can subsidize dinner for his students? No offense, and I understand wanting to give back to a program that was good to you, but BCLT seems to me to be the most well-funded program at Boalt. (No empirical evidence to support this claim, just the fact that they have, for example, a full time position devoted to running it.) Maybe its funding is why it's worked so well for you. Maybe that's why it's a good idea to start funding other programs, so that they can work well for a broader cross section of students. Sorry, I don't mean to tell you how to spend your money--just seems to me like the rich keep getting richer.

3/12/2007 7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone else think that we should just call it quits with the current facility and relocate the entire law school elsewhere on campus? History says it’s an effective way of solving a space shortage (the current building called Boalt Hall is not actually the first).

I know this is slightly tangential to this topic, but I sat in on the courtyard construction proposal today and I couldn’t help but get frustrated with the idea that all of this money is going to be spent to merely add to the existing building. It’s this style of patchwork/ phased construction that has resulted in having hallways that run into walls or change elevation when you turn a corner. There’s no entrance that serves as a face to the law school. The school facility is so ridiculously laid out that it becomes the a topic of conversation among people who inevitably got lost after visiting. Worse, we’re loosing the best part of the school: the courtyard area.

Take the money they want to spend on the courtyard project, cut our losses on the joint building with Haas and start from scratch with comprehensive planning. We can hand over the current building to some other department. The rest of campus is having building shortages and not all departments are as image conscious or requiring as much space. We can relocate in the place of some dilapidated building to be torn down that is more central to campus- hopefully reducing the degree of isolationism we experience in regard to the rest of the school. Alums who return to the school don’t think back fondly upon the architectural significance of the building. Rather, they say it was crappy when they were here 20 years ago. I doubt anyone would really shed a tear if we simply moved out and built something that better suited our needs.

3/12/2007 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it's very off topic, but I just wanted to draw everyone's attention to the mention of the Sandy Cohen Fellowship and Nuts & Boalts that's currently on abovethelaw.com.

3/12/2007 7:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some Thoughts:

- I agree with posters re: Edley's threats to quit. Such public threats don't befit someone who leads a great institution like Boalt. But, if the Regents really need to hear DE's threats to quit in order to maintain Boalt's excellence, I suppose I understand the tactic yet mourn its necessity.

- The LAT called DE a "charismatic" leader. WTF? Maybe the idea of DE is charismatic on paper, but, in person, I don't think he evinces charisma, at least in any conventional sense of the term. But, if people believing that DE has charisma helps strengthen Boalt and its mission, I can go along with it.

- Re: DE's capital campaign, when will we really know whether DE is succeeding in raising the necessary funds? Also, how will we know whether DE could have raised even more funds if he used a different strategy? That's what bugs me about all this discussion. DE is bound to raise more money than any dean in the history of Boalt. But that's not saying much. The other deans barely asked for money (See H.H. Kay) and, if they did ask, they set their goals quite low (~$15 mil) (See Choper). If you don't ask for it, you don't get it -- and Boalt never bothered asking for the money for very understandable reasons (See robust state funding from a bygone era). So Edley's bound to raise more money than deans past. But could another dean have raised significantly more money? I hope that, when the data from the capital campaign is analyzed, there's some earnest discussion about what worked and didn't work about the capital campaign, instead of a lot of backslapping over an absolute increase in giving that, upon closer inspection, may be relatively low compared to what other fundraising strategies might have reaped.

- Re: restricted giving - let's not bust on people who decide they want to give to a very specific organization at Boalt. It's great to see people giving and, if they want to restrict their funds to a particular organization, so be it. It saves Boalt from having to come up with the money from elsewhere to fund that organization. Also, what is now a well-funded organization could be in great needs of funds down the road.

3/12/2007 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know how Boalt has an archivist? The archives room is on your right as you enter the library from the Donor's Lobby. Folks should check it out. Anyway, a few days ago, as I passed by that room, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that there's a box on a shelf in the archives room that is labeled "Nuts and Boalts" with the appropriate year. I think it's cool that this blog is being archived on paper for the benefit of future Boalties and those who wish to study the institution.

Does anyone know, though, whether the archivist is also printing out the comments (not just the original posts)? The comments, whether nutty or erudite, on this blog really ought to be preserved. Laugh all you want, but the comment section on this blog is a snapshot of the thoughts and feelings of Boalties in 2007.

As we all know, while the original posts often raise great issues, the comment section is where the real action is. I can imagine an archivist merely printing out the original posts and not clicking through to the comments. I think that's a mistake. And I'd hope archivists, who might have completist, collecting mentalities, would agree that capturing more information in this case is better. The archivist should print out the original posts AND the comments, perhaps at the end of the month, and then put them in the box.

Anyway, back to the discussion at hand.

3/12/2007 8:03 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

8:03, good catch. Isaac, Armen, and I can kiss away ever being US Attorneys now! :) How do you think the MILF post would play before the Senate Judiciary committee Armen?

3/12/2007 8:12 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

8:03, that is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 1L year. Anyway, Bill Benemann is a wealth of information. I encourage anyone to go in and talk to him. The linked post discusses why he's taken an interest in N&B.

3/12/2007 8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just sad to see DE getting so frustrated with the situation. We're going to have a hard time keeping him.

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."

3/12/2007 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

while i think it's goofy that Tom gave to BCLT, at least he gave, unlike some of the less community minded posters on this blog.

boalt is starving for money. Edley realizes it. Hopefully, he gets it and spends it wisely.

3/12/2007 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's great to give to BCLT, and I'm not even involved in the organization! If a law student feels that she benefited from an organization within a school, some would say that it's not only her prerogative, but also her duty, to give back to that organization in some meaningful way.

3/12/2007 10:14 PM  
Blogger Tom Fletcher said...

Re: BCLT. BCLT has fed me lunch 40% of my time at Boalt (give or take). BCLT created the system that allowed me to publish a note. BCLT organized numerous job fairs and has provided me enough great opportunities to get this career started. BCLT has also organized some of the best and most rewarding classes I've taken at this school (e.g., Patent Litigation, Trade Secrets). BCLT has made it abundantly clear that it wants me to learn and wants to know what I think too (e.g., visiting scholar presentations).

That's head & shoulders above what the rest of the school has had to offer me, though I think BCLBE is very promising and I've enjoyed all the classes in their program and all the seminars they've sponsored (in particular, I was blown away by the lawyer from Heller Ehrman who presented on internal investigations). I'm glad, to the point of goofiness apparently, to support their ability to do the same for the 2Ls, 1Ls and students to come. I think the center sets the gold standard for Boalt that the rest of the school should aspire to.

3/12/2007 10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:18: Amen.

Anyone know the numbers to tell if it'd be feasible? How much do all these projects cost when combined?

3/12/2007 10:36 PM  
Blogger Mad.J.D. said...

Tom: a well-stated defense of your love affair with BCLT. It sort of warmed my heart. I picture you and BCLT running hand-in-hand through a meadow while "You Light Up My Life" plays on the soundtrack. (a la Kumar's fantasy relationship with giant bag of weed.)

Come to think of it, I've gained a lot from BCLT as well. Anyway, 7:52 makes a good point that any dollar donated to any org is a dollar less that Boalt has to come up with. I definitely should not be criticizing any donation.

10:01, I'm not sure if your comment about "less community minded posters" is directed at me (or how you would know how ANYONE did or did not give money), but let me assure you, I gave. (Earmarked it for financial aid.) And I have the nifty license plate frames to prove it. By the way, I hope those were donated by a third party and not purchased out of the pool of donated money. That would seem a frivolous use of funds...does anyone know about this?

3/13/2007 12:22 AM  
Anonymous Lauren said...

FYI, Nuts & Boalts has been blogged about...
http://blogs.eastbayexpress.com/92510/2007/03/boalt_hall_price_hike_inevitab.php#more

3/13/2007 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This thread might already be dead, but I just wanted to say two things: (1) I think the fee hike is a good idea, but we should also make sure that Boalt is no longer required to subsidize the main campus as it is now and (2) just so you all realize the magnitude of the hike, he is talking about 16% per year for five years. Assuming tuition is about $26K now, it would be $54.6K in five years, or a 110% increase in five years following a 130% increase in the previous five years - a fivefold increase (from ~$11K to ~$55K in a decade). I just hope Boalt is five times as awesome as it was in 2002 at the end of all this.

3/14/2007 9:50 AM  

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