Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Liveblogging the Town Hall

Hey dudes.

We'll be doing it so you don't have to. Live from room 105 at 12:45 (as y'all know from the thousands of emails telling you to go).

So, sit back, relax and let us listen so you don't have to (that's right, today we're that nerdy guy in the front row of Torts who always sends you his notes).

Also, seriously people, we know there's a town hall today. You can stop forwarding the damn emails.

12:52 - Ok, late but here. Packed room. Edley's lining up some questions. Students want more stuff for their money. I think we can all agree with that.

12:53 - Edley cracks a decent joke. No one laughs. This isn't going to be an easy one, dude.

12:56 - And we're busting out the powerpoint slides. He's doing a comparison between the school's position in 04/05 and now. It's a pretty powerful point. LRAP, ranking, % employed at graduation, etc. are all much better now.

12:59 - Edley wants to redefine what it means to be a public law school - Apparently it no longer means cheap.

1:02 - Michigan spends more money than we do. It was way worse back in the day. Also, our chairs are sweet.

1:04 - Edley smacks down Berkeley's Celtic Poetry Department. They stole our money, apparently. No one laughs. This is some very serious stuff.

1:06 - Ok, this is actually what you need to know. The benchmark is our competitors minuse $5k. They're projecting all peer schools to be at $57k by 2013. The crowd is skeptical.

1:09 - "You are irrationally focused on rankings. Shame on you." Edley, right after he's told us we don't lose joint admits to other public law schools.

1:10 - How new revenue will be spent - 40% to LRAP/Financial Aid. About 55% to 6 new faculty members (it's not marked, poorly made graph). 5% goes back to construction bonds? Again, whoever labeled this graph did a horrible job.

1:12 - Edley's being patronizing by asking repeatedly if we understand a simple financial graph. Crowd is getting annoyed.

1:12 - Faculty salaries did not get cut. 27.4% of the rest of our budget did get cut. The law school only receives about $3M -$4M in state funding that excludes faculty salaries. These graphs are so shitty it's hard to be any more exact than that.

1:15 - "There's some whining every once in a while on the blog about where's Dean Edley" - I think he means us.

1:17 - Quick shout out to those of you who are actually in the same room with me and also reading this. I can see some of you. ;)

1:19 "Yes, the price of Boalt is going up. But I'm not spending the money in the Caribbean. We're trying to transform the school in several dimensions, the most obvious being the physical changes." Apparently we used to not have power in class. That would have been horrible.

1:21 - Boalt is getting more exclusive. Everyone pat yourselves on the back. He's softening us up for the Q&A period.

1:22 - Edley finally makes a joke that gets laughs. It's about "faith-based fundraising." Everyone can unite in their disdain for the religious right.

1:24 - Ok, so it's my fault for just noticing this, but a ton of students have signs that they can hold up that say either "I agree" or "No Way." They are red and green. I haven't seen anyone use them.

1:25 - Edley asks Dennis to stand up. Dennis doesn't want to stand up. He finally has to, though, because he has to talk on the mic. Now Edley's leading him around, sort of like he's on a leash. In fact he mimes it. That gets real laughs.

1:27 - Edley's actually in "The Thinker" pose while we listen to Dennis talk about a lot of numbers.

1:28 - Brilliant tactical move by Edley. Dennis is now taking questions at Edley's urging, eating up valuable time that would be used to put Edley on the hot seat.

1:29 - The LRAP and Summer Internship Program are essential and will remain in place.

1:30 - The signs just got held up. Edley sort of jokes about it and is now asking what the other flyer means. I feel bad for Dennis. He just wants to talk numbers.

1:32 - Dennis makes a fair point. The LRAP is designed to help people entering govt. or PI work, but we can't always guarantee it over your whole life. In other words, you're not actually entitled to a worry free life, but Boalt's doing its best to give you one. And now we're talking about negative amortization.

1:36 - Do we realize that these questions are taking time away from Edley taking questions? He makes a Madoff joke, though. Also the green signs seem to be throwing him off.

1:38 - What you are doing with your tuition is helping LRAP for students that have graduated. And now it's getting combative. One student holds up an "oh really" sign and Edley goes on the offensive. Edley's basically telling the 2L that he's misquoting Edley.

1:39 - Great question: "What's your top funding priority?" Edley basically refuses to answer, saying it's more about keeping the portfolio balanced because nothing can be more important than anything. What's the investment strategy? I get what he's saying, but it's a cop out. What are we keeping untouched by cuts?

1:41 - Follow up quotes Obama's prioritizing. Edley fires back "I was there, I know." And now we're arguing about an analogy instead of the actual issue. Edley then states excellence is more important than diversity. Not entirely sure how we got here, but it's not answering the initial question.

1:42 - "I came so Boalt could be a top 5 law school. Not so Boalt could slip to being a top 25 law school. If you provide access to a mediocre law school, you don't accomplish anything." Where are all the "I agree" signs?

1:43 - I think the signs are throwing everyone off. Now we're arguing about increasing fees. I knew last fall they were going up. Where was everyone else? (Not that they should to these levels, necessarily, but the info was out there for enterprising 0Ls).

1:45 - So, if NYU raises fees to $75k, we can expect to see our fees at $68k, is basically what we're being told at this point. "Market minus 10%"

1:45 - "The biggest risk that I see right now is that the head room between what we charge students and where the market is get gobbled up by UC fees that Boalt doesn't get." More Celtic Poetry shit talking.

1:47 - Edley's considered doing a simple income test LRAP, but apparently we couldn't afford it before. They want to revise the "law related" test that will loosen it. "Any job that it's not very unusual to have a lawyer."

1:49 - Say it with me. Barack Obama. Barack Obama. Barack Obama. I think we're at like 3-4 in this meeting. Not too shabby over an hour.

1:50 - Ok, here goes the 1L complaining. We're getting a lot of facts in this question that Edley seems skeptical about. And here come the I agree signs. And a little clapping. Edley's going to focus on the bad figures that he gave. Skeptical silence. "While I calm down, do either of you want to address that?" Dean Tom's now on the hot seat, "Every year we don't get final fee amounts until fairly late in the game." They're building a new website. That always works.

1:51 - "I don't read the materials myself." - Awesome! "Come talk to me and you can see how I spend my time." Let's just say, there is a small minority of pissed off students about this. I think it makes sense.

1:53 - "It should not be a surprise to you that tuition goes up." According to Edley, 80 -85% of us will go into private sector jobs and will be making more money after a few years than anybody on the faculty. "When you graduate your median income will be roughly five times the median income of all CA state taxpayers."

1:54 - "So yes, your tuition is going up and you deserve fair warning...but the background uncertainties are there." This is some forceful stuff. The big closing. He's practiced this and it's effective.

1:55 - Edley goes on - Boalt today is a good deal. And I really regret it if folks think it's not.

1:56 - If we decrease fees internally for Boalt, we will have to slam the brakes on improving Boalt. It will make us less competitive, it will reinforce the anxiety that Boalt will go down the tubes because CA is going down the tubes. He got some "I agrees" on that one.

1:57 - "Most people on the faculty are very supportive and excited by student activism around fee issues. Not necessarily because we think the substance is right, but because we'd rather have a student body that's alive not soporific." This is true.

1:58 - Final message. Take this energy, use it to change politics.

Well, there you have it. Thanks for following along and we look forward to your thoughts in the comments.

59 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prediction: education lesson for bitchy 1Ls.

Prediction: theme = do you want to go to a shittier public law school on par with UCLA and located in the Bay Area, or a fantastic public law school that costs $15K more?

11/24/2009 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So if public doesn't = cheap, then what does public mean? Public, to me, has always connoted Access (for those able to reach the academic requirements of the specific institution). If 'Public' it's no longer cheap, then will aid be increased for in-state students to maintain Access? (Not there, hope the Dean answers this).

11/24/2009 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Hersh said...

A good strategy was to take the questions up front. Nobody is going to remember if one or two tough questions are breezed over.

11/24/2009 1:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think public means access. (People can argue about what it really means.) But access doesn't mean low tuition; that's like saying that public healthcare requires that everyone pay $20k/year in taxes. Fees can be progressive, and in higher education this progressivity is accomplished through need-based financial aid.

Furthermore, "access" is something of a joke when loans can completely satisfy your financial need. In that respect, law school is perfectly "accessible" financially. (At least for most people--I recognize that some people have really bad credit or are otherwise ineligible for federal loans.)

We could argue about whether law school is equally accessible for everyone (my hunch is that it isn't), but if you think that keeping tuition low will increase "accessibility" I think you need to be a little more clear about what you mean by "access."

11/24/2009 1:15 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

DE: Next year, tuition will see a big jump. This was approved several years ago and isn't new - well, it's new to many of you.

1Ls (with opportunity to say 'why is this new to me?'): strangely silent.

11/24/2009 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We can see you, too, James.

(captcha = womyth. part woman, part myth.)

11/24/2009 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's hilarious to me that so many students here scoff at "the rankings." Why the hell are you here? Quit being babies and accept your debt.

11/24/2009 1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:15, 1:04 here. I don't think "Access" necessarily means "Cheap," but neither do I think that 'access is something of a joke' because of available lenders. I think "Affordable" rather than "Cheap" is where I was going, and affordable means not having to go into BigLaw to pay back loans. That is why the LRAP funding is they lynchpin of the administrations argument. Basically, if Public=Affordable=Students will have a a number of financially viable options on the plate after law school, the the "Public" nature of the school will be preserved, I think. The devil is in the details though, and as of yet we know very little about how LRAP will play out in coming years.

11/24/2009 1:24 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Is Dennis telling us that it's our fault for borrowing too much money to pursue a degree that may not be as useful as it was ten years ago?

11/24/2009 1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:15 here.

I think the devil is in the details. But as long as LRAP remains as generous as it is now, people don't have to worry about funding their law school education on public interest jobs. There are a few caveats.

1) If you're jobless, you don't qualify for LRAP. We've seen a decline in the number of PI jobs available. This spells disaster and makes law school more "risky," but that risk is global (in that everyone must account for this risk, regardless of ability to pay--but we could also argue about the subjective value of money here).

2) If you want a government job, LRAP probably won't help. But we've seen some glimmers of hope in Congress on this front; at this point, however, they remain mere glimmers.

3) The past isn't an incredible indicator of what will happen in the future, and LRAP could become less generous at some point.

I think we mostly agree, but I just feel that people put to much emphasis on the "this is a public school" argument. It's not even an argument; it's a slogan that gets interpreted in many (and sometimes conflicting) ways.

11/24/2009 1:34 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

I disagree, James. The signs are throwing the student off. Every time they go up, he just makes fun of them.

11/24/2009 1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:04

I agree with your points 1:15, and by no means did I mean to sloganize "Access." I'm more concerned with the practical than theoretical.

And Denis does seem now to be addressing those folks who may fall through the cracks (Small Law, Plaintiff Law, Gov. Law), which I think is crucial. As long as funding mechanisms are adequately communicated to prospective students, and actualized for graduating students, my concerns about "Access" are largely satisfied.

11/24/2009 1:43 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Apparently we used to not have power in class. That would have been horrible

That is patently untrue. They had powerstrips up front in some of the larger lecture halls. And for the rest of us, given where average laptop battery lifespans stood at the time, we could easily get through a solid 30-45 minutes of lecture. Easily!

And I think the inaugural Boalt Briefs from the initial round of fee hikes this decade said it best: “It’s true that our fees are approaching those charged at private institutions,” said Dean Berring. “But that doesn’t mean students
can’t expect the same level of public institution service that we’ve always offered.”

True then, true now.

11/24/2009 1:49 PM  
Blogger Vanessa said...

Thanks for doing this, James.

11/24/2009 2:03 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Peter covered this over at BHSA, too, if you want to read about it twice.

11/24/2009 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think public = state funding.

Nothing more.

The rest of you are delusional.

11/24/2009 2:14 PM  
Blogger Miles said...

If public = state funding, then our options are to privatize or shut down.

11/24/2009 2:17 PM  
Anonymous Hersh said...

I find it hard to believe that lawyers that come out of the top 10 are receiving more value for their money than students at other schools in the top 30. You are paying for a brand. Like Edley says, you are paying for a credential that is going to pay dividends for the rest of your lives.

You could pay less for a law degree, but students for the most part want the brand and prestige. It costs money to build the brand and climb the rankings.

The Economist magazine had an article not to long ago about how top MBA programs worldwide prioritize attracting top students because they don't add much value -- for the most part they take great students and brand them with their institution name.

It strikes me that Law Schools are similar. I find it hard to believe that a student at Harvard or Stanford is being given substantially better training than I am. Its possible that they are, I just don't know how their teaching mechanisms could be that much better.

In the same way, I think a degree at Hastings or UCLA is probably educationally just as valuable as one from Boalt. The difference is the branding. Employers comparing students of equivalent GPA from different schools often assume that the student from the higher ranked school is better.

I think the student body at this school understands that that is how employers think -- both public sector and private sector employers. We want our school to have a more prestige--whether that prestige is connected to rank or not--so we are more competitive candidates in the eyes of picky employers. Edley is telling us that it is going to cost money to build the prestige we want our school to have.

Now if you are not interested in the DOJ honors program, or a job at Skadden, or a job at the ACLU, then perhaps these tuition increases piss you off because you don't care about the prestige. Maybe you chose the wrong school then. The leadership at this school clearly wants to spend the money to prepare its students to compete for the prestigious jobs.

If the plan was to develop lawyers for the modest career of serving underserved programs in anonymity, then we wouldn't need the fancy facilities, fancy faculty, and all the rest of the hoopla that is needed for rankings and attracting top students.

You can argue that that SHOULD be Boalt's emphasis, but I would argue that you'd have a different student body if that was the case. I doubt you'd get so many type-A, 170+ LSAT, study-all-the-time overachievers at a school that had half the faculty and old dusty rooms from the 60s.

Face it, most of you came here for the prestige. Now Edley is telling us what it costs.

11/24/2009 2:37 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Hersh said it right.

11/24/2009 2:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Face it, most of you came here for the prestige. Now Edley is telling us what it costs."

Therein lies the problem. NOW Edley is telling us what it costs. He didn't tell us what it cost before people made the decision to come here. Perhaps those future ACLU lawyers would have selected a different school given the information up-front.

11/24/2009 2:59 PM  
Blogger James said...

Dude, if you're a '12er, then you were given 47k in-state in 2012. I know this because I remember receiving this info. Yes, it is 4k more. Does this suck? Sure. But really, you were going to come here at 47k and not at 51k?

11/24/2009 3:08 PM  
Blogger L'Alex said...

I must say, I was very proud of my fellow Boalties today. Not only was the room packed to capacity, but the questions asked were relevant and on-point, and the red/green signs were a hilarious way of checking DE's responses.

I was also very impressed that DE apologized to those of us who felt there was a lack of proper communication concerning the increases.

11/24/2009 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me cynical, but it seems to me like there may have been a deliberate attempt to hide the "Edley-plan" tuition increases from current 1Ls, due to a fear that those 1Ls wouldn't come here if they knew about them.

The bright side is, after today's town hall, it looks like the 1Ls got the apology they wanted (and deserved) and like it won't happen again. Plus, those 1Ls who are particularly disturbed by the extra $5K-25K (or whatever the precise number is) have not lost their ability to transfer somewhere more inexpensive this summer. Surely Edley will write one of their letters of rec.

11/24/2009 3:12 PM  
Blogger Carbolic said...

You're cynical. Edley has been talking about raising tuition ever since he arrived at Berkeley Law five years ago. This has been covered extensively in the press, particularly last year. And Berkeley Law tuition has been increasing substantially every year since 2000.

11/24/2009 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear James,

The Admissions Office told people that their estimate of tuition in 2012 was about $35,000. In writing. Dean Edley specifically told the 1L's this summer that there'd be nothing dramatic. I consider the largest one-year fee increase in Berkeley Law history --- maybe the largest one-year fee increase in American legal education? --- dramatic.

Please give me your thoughts on these assurances, and direct me to where I should have found authoritative information to the contrary when I was making my law school decision. Thanks,

1L

11/24/2009 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And for alums, like Carbolic, who have no idea what the fuck happened at the town hall or to current 1Ls (and instead rely on vague, vapid phrases like 'ever since' and 'covered extensively in the press'), my point was that it sounds as if 1Ls received a bunch of materials suggesting that there weren't plans to raise tuition. That, coupled with the fact that it's plausible that tuition increases may scare people off, is what led me to my cynical view.

-3:12

p.s. What the fuck kind of cop-out is 'it was covered in the press' anyway? What if I'm from Nebraska? Am I supposed to keep up on my Berkeley Law from there?

11/24/2009 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@3:52 RE: postscript

Uh, yeah, yeah you are. You're attending, and it's your responsibility to do your due diligence with regard to readily available information that you want to know. It's a neat thing called the Internet. You can get news from anywhere, to anywhere. Check it out.

11/24/2009 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:50,

Would you mind posting the text of this letter. Those of us who didn't see this letter could benefit by reading its language.

I just find it difficult to believe (not saying I don't believe) that people were this surprised that fees were going up.

11/24/2009 3:58 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

@3:56 re: Internet

s/he said s/he is from nebraska. i don't think s/he could have made it any more clear.

11/24/2009 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I write to update you on the financial situation at the Law School in light of the on-going budget crisis in California and the consequent challenges for UC Berkeley. My central message is one of reassurance: We will continue to offer the best education of any law school on this or any nearby planet. At this point I foresee few if any budget cuts that will have material near-term effects on students.


The most significant program consequences to you will likely be some modest reduction in the number of small-enrollment offerings by adjunct lecturers, some slowing of the rapid expansion of the faculty we have pursued in recent years, perhaps some limitations on the scope of technical support on computer issues, and perhaps a slight reduction in the caloric content of the free lunches at speaking events.



On the positive side, it now appears likely that we will be able to follow through with the announcements I made earlier this spring concerning expansions in the Loan Repayment Assistance Program, more summer public interest fellowship grants, expansion of career services counseling, and several other measures. We will continue and expand the Boalt in D.C. program for a semester of study in Washington, D.C. We will continue our program of classroom renovations and construction. The West Terrace will be completed before classes begin. Excavation for the South Addition will be complete in a few days. Eight new core faculty members join us this summer, which gets us three-quarters of the way toward the goal set when I arrived five years ago of a 40% net increase in the faculty.



Please be clear, however, that the budget situation remains fluid. The Chancellor and Provost have not yet finalized the campus plans, in part because the Legislature remains tied in knots. Gordian, it seems. The Law School is in remarkably sound shape compared with most other campus units, and compared with most of our peer institutions. There are several reasons: our strategy of steadily raising tuition closer towards a benchmark of about 10% below the average of top-10 schools; the $125 million capital campaign has produced successive years of record alumni contributions; our low dependence on state appropriations, relative to other campus units, because the state support for the Law School was disproportionately cut during the recession earlier in the decade; the relatively small contribution of endowment income in our revenue stream, relative to other top-10 schools. The last two points mean we are more insulated than we would otherwise be from sharp state budget cuts and the Wall Street meltdown. Make no mistake, times will be tight. However, I simply do not expect that we will face the extraordinary budget reductions hitting many of our peer schools.



I hope the balance of your summer is both productive and restful.


Sincerely,

11/24/2009 4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, that letter mentions the increase to 10% below cost: "There are several reasons: our strategy of steadily raising tuition closer towards a benchmark of about 10% below the average of top-10 school." So everyone who got that letter was in fact on notice?



What did the letter from financial aid say? Anyone have that one?

11/24/2009 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:05

I'm confused... Are you suggesting that this letter shows that DE was hiding the ball or that we should have expected the fee increases? If its the former, I want to point out that the letter refers several times to DE's goal of market minus 10%. Are you arguing that you were unfairly surprised when the market rate for legal education continued to climb after you enrolled?

11/24/2009 4:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:05 here. I had no agenda, I just wanted to provide the letter that people were talking about. It should be noted, though, that this letter was sent out in June after the deadline to commit to Berkeley. The Berkeley Law Organizing Committee's open letter references April financial aid office statements (footnote 4) that I don't have. Sorry!

11/24/2009 4:25 PM  
Blogger James said...

I'm fairly certain this data went out as a physical part of the admissions packet. As I don't have my packet available, I can't speak to that. But, I clearly remember a: 35k, 40k, 45k-47k progression.

But, as early as 2007, in-state tuition was being reported as $40k in 2010. As you may (or may not) be aware, in-state tuition last year was about 30k, this year it's about 35k, and originally it was going to be about 40k next year. Now it's going to be a bit higher. Here's an LA Times article on the subject: http://tinyurl.com/yc6sjec

Even if one (wrongly) assumed fees were going to stay at 35k, 40k and 40k (for each year, respectively) it still adds up to $115k.

I'll see if I can dig up anything else on the subject.

11/24/2009 4:28 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Option 1: Transition away from dependency on state funding through gradual student fee increases, increased donations, etc. to ensure short and long-term fees are determined by the legal education market as opposed to California politics.

Option 2: Maintain status quo. Would lead the law school to lose state funding at the same rate as the University as a whole. State budget short-falls, including those occurring mid-cycle, are passed on to the school.

All the ways that DE's letter describes that the school is insulated from the general economic meltdown all around is thanks to his foresight in choosing option 1. Option 2 would surely have led to greater increases, by percentage and in absolute terms, than the current increases (admittedly the total fees may or may not have been this high). So my question is how do you reconcile this? How can you complain about the magnitude of A when not A is even worse? I still can't wrap my head around that.

The other incongruity that I'm seeing is the notion that the school didn't spell out fee increases to the dime in advance. Since the UC and state budgets are not determined for longer than a 1 year period and since the school lost a costly lawsuit the last time it made any affirmative statements about fees, which in turn led to higher fees for then-attending and future Boalties. What's the suggestion here? How is this to be reconciled with a student's need to know? I'm not here suggesting that the school's communication about fees has been perfect. Clearly, there's been some dropping of the ball. But I'd appreciate some constructive thoughts.

So this is your chance to offer constructive thoughts.

11/24/2009 4:37 PM  
Blogger Carbolic said...

You wondered if it was cynical to suspect that DE was intending to trick students with a tuition bait-and-switch. I confirmed that it was. A quick Google News Search easily pulls up about 10 newspaper articles between 2005 and 2007 discussing Edley's advocacy of higher tuition.

To be honest, I never researched the possiblity of tuition increasing when I was applying to law school, either. But then again, there were more important factors for me to consider than the proportional rate at which various law schools might increase their tuition.

I think the real question is: would any student not have come to Berkeley if they knew the of the tuition increase beforehand? If so--what was the alternative? Accepting a hefty scholarship at a less competitive school? Marginally better financial aid at a peer school? Not going to law school at all?

11/24/2009 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can someone please [re]post the infamous $105k letter/brochure? The 1Ls that I know seem to have ALL known about the fee increase plan. I'm not disputing that this $105k figure appeared somewhere. I'm just a little skeptical.

11/24/2009 4:53 PM  
Anonymous PapaYatzy said...

By coming to Boalt, we all chose excellence. While the normative proposition (and dream) of low cost, quality public education is noble, it's not realistic, especially not now. Most people who got into Boalt got into any number of "lower" quality law schools, or could have. Not every school has the faculty, preexisting reputation, resources, and energy to become a top flight institution. I do not fault Edley at all for having the vision and drive to make Boalt a world class law school. If you want to pay less, go elsewhere. The consequences of that though, are you will get less. That's just the way the world appears to work: there is no such thing as a free lunch; life involves choices.

Boalt can still be public and have high fees. Public used to mean free, but that was never public's most important dimension. Public means access and responsibility. Raising fees from $35k to $45k might, on the margin, reduce access, but by no means is this a sweeping change: we had high fees, and they just got a higher. They are still high.

And, arguably, the best way that Boalt can augment the responsibility aspect is by increasing fees and bolstering LRAP, both of which it is doing. Low fees just mean that those who want to go into the private sector get this enormous private benefit (a first class legal education) at the expense of the state without any responsibility to give back. Raising fees while assuring those who want to give back through public interest work makes those who derive this private benefit for their own private purpose (a big law job and $) can better help subsidize those who want to go into the public sector. So it is the corporate-leaning lawyers who should be most upset about this, not the future public servants. I realize this only works if LRAP is robust, and hopefully the increased fees will be put to good use to ensure that it is. Our continued pressure in this area can help ensure this.

We can debate 1) whether we were misled into believing the manner in which fees would go up (and common sense dictates that tuition always rises, although not always this precipitously) and 2) what the school's priorities should be (I for one don't think the new building just benefits "corporate lawyers" as was alleged, but helps attract faculty from all walks who can enhance all of Boalt's purposes), but I hope that we can all agree that Boalt should be the best law school that it can be. Boalt declining in quality does not benefit anybody. Excellence has a price, and if the state no longer wants to pay it, then somebody else has to. It's just not possible for us to have an excellent education without paying for it, and 10% below market for a top-6 law school is still a damn good deal; before, it was an unreal deal, but like most things that seem too good to be true, it could not last. So rather than slamming Edley for hiking fees, lets work with the school to ensure it puts the money to use to serve us (clinics, centers, facilities, teachers, CDO, etc.).

11/24/2009 6:18 PM  
Blogger SC said...

i'm impressed at the tenor of this debate, so i hate to interrupt, but does anyone know what the deal is with the helicopter that's been hovering over campus for the past 45 minutes?

11/24/2009 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, let me ask a question that is bound to raise to paranoia temperature in here a few degrees.

The underpinning to Edley's whole plan is a robust LRAP. Can't afford Boalt? LRAP. Want to take a public interest job? LRAP. Worried that there won't be legal jobs out there for you in one of the worst legal markets in recent memory? Don't be, there's LRAP.

But why is everyone so sure that Boalt's LRAP program is going to be there for them?

Let's go through a few facts/assumptions.

(1) Boalt raises tuition - students take on greater debt. I think that everyone can agree this is true.

(2) Big law firm jobs are disappearing, and, despite Edley assurances that 75-85% of graduates will take these jobs, those are (I assume) largely historical. I think it's likely that a substantial number of graduates will not have those jobs this year. Maybe this is pessimistic (green shoots anyone?), but I doubt it. Remember, there's whole classes who have been deferred for a year, and firms - by most accounts - have significantly scaled back their hiring.

(3) With fewer big law jobs, graduates are more likely to end up in (either by choice or necessity) jobs that offer loan repayment. Some percentage of law students obviously already do just that and would do so regardless of whether they could take a big law job, and do so by choice, but it's probably fair to say that, with costs increasing and (big) paying jobs decreasing more people will be incentivized to do so now.

(4) More people seeking LRAP assistance will put additional pressure on LRAP . . . which means LRAP is going to need more money to help graduates out, or, in the alternative, may need to give less money to people who previously would have been recipients.

Fevered paranoia? Maybe. But it happened at UNC (http://abovethelaw.com/2009/06/unc_law_abruptly_ends_loan_rep.php), and it's not impossible to see it happening here.

11/24/2009 6:31 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

6:31, even if there's a 10% increase in the # of LRAP candidates (a very large increase), then a reduction of the cap from $100K to $90K would get you the 10% savings (this assumes that everyone will use LRAP to the max, but even if that doesn't pan out, then $88K or $85K would do the trick). So for the price of a Corolla, LRAP shall live.

Also, LRAP should not be considered in isolation. Summer grants, fin aid, and every other expenditure can be tweaked a bit to make sure LRAP remains the most robust in the country. UNC was in dire straits for a lot of other reasons. The fall of their LRAP probably had little to do with the job choices of its students.

11/24/2009 6:40 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Papa, I liked everything you said until you said tuition was rising precipitously. I mean, no, it's not technically incorrect. But it still made me cringe.

SC, lately, whenever I wonder about hovering helicopters, I go here.

11/24/2009 6:46 PM  
Blogger Carbolic said...

To be honest, I think the class of 2011 is kinda screwed, at least in terms of the "guaranteed biglaw" at the time of graduation.

And the whole super-expensive law school education is predicated (at least partly) on the expectation of a strong salary after graduation. (This is entirely the fault of the ABA, and to a lesser extent, USNWR.)

That being said--it's not like the current 2Ls are screwed permanently. The economy is already picking up. I would expect that the very great majority of students at Boalt will get a chance to work 14 hour days at a law firm if they want to, at least within a few years from graduation. (And remember that most stay for only a few years anyway.)

So my point is that, recent OCIP aside, Boalt graduates won't necessarily have massive debt hanging over their heads forever, even with the tuition increases.

11/24/2009 8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm confused about why people are complaining about LRAP now.

Edley said that strengthening LRAP was just one of any reasons why he instituted his plan that increased tuition. It certainly was not the underpinning.

Furthermore, I didn't know it was the law school's duty to ensure that we are able to pay back our loans. Even without the tuition increases, with the current economy, nothing about the problems of LRAP will change. I don't understand why LRAP is relevant. Someone at the town hall mentioned that it is possible to end up owing more after LRAP than before you started. How is that related to the tuition hikes?

It seems that the strikers have latched on to other issues now that they see that Edley wasn't trying to hide the ball.

Ultimately we have to take responsibility for our own financial situation. We knew that tuition would increase. We, nor the administration, anticipated how much it would increase. The administration gave us projections, yes, but those are just estimates.

11/24/2009 9:06 PM  
Blogger James said...

I'm sort of confused, too.

At this point I don't get what the forward looking issue is. It sucks that they weren't more open about it or didn't disseminate the info correctly, but do we really disagree with where Edley wants to take the school?

11/24/2009 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Honestly, "we" isn't a really helpful pronoun here.

You, and a good chunk of the reactionary (I think that's better word than conservative) Nuts & Boalts crowd love prioritizing USNWR rankings above diversity, above access, above commitment to social justice and public interest.

The vast majority of student who showed up to the forum today (and maybe even a good chunk of the student body at large) have concerns about where Dean Edley wants to take the school.

11/24/2009 10:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:06 here,

As a student of color that appreciates access to higher education and is entering the public sector after graduation, I take exception to your assumptions about me.

I was at the town hall today, and I didn't hear a single student say that they had concerns about where the law school was heading. Yet you speak of "the vast majority?"

You seem to want to make this into an issue of social justice students are good and right and everyone else who opposes them are bad and hate diversity and want to sell their souls to BigLaw.

That is an unfair and dishonest characterization of the issue.

11/24/2009 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A robust LRAP is a practical underpinning for increasing fees. Without it, people will not be able to choose from the wide array of jobs that they expected when deciding on Berkeley. This would not only defeat one of Berkeley's goals, but it would frustrate the expectations of people who decided to come here. In short, without LRAP, I think many people would be angry, and legitimately so.

So, we're talking about LRAP because it's one of the few things that makes fee increases palatable.

11/24/2009 11:03 PM  
Blogger James said...

Technically, you're reactionary, I'm with what's happening and therefore not reacting. ;) But I don't really think attempting to put this in some sort of lib/conservative spectrum is very helpful, do you?

I also am not sure if this appeal to the populace thing works, either. Both sides can say the same thing with only anecdotal evidence to support. Can we just skip the chest thumping for a second and get back to my initial question:

What's your proposal? What would you do to keep Boalt as competitive as it is now without raising fees? And don't tell me you don't care about how prestigious Boalt is, because, assuming you're paying to go here, you could have easily gotten a full ride to a public school in CA that has professors of similar caliber. Why'd you choose Boalt?

Also, why be anonymous? I understand the benefits, but if you feel so strongly about this, why not engage in this conversation in an open manner? I've yet to really be approached on this issue and I've heard several other students say the same. I think Edley made the same mistake in the meeting today - instead of trying to win people over he was pretty damn combative. Which is essentially what I see from both sides.

11/24/2009 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:03

They are expanding LRAP so why the frustration? They aren't increasing tuition just to expand LRAP. They are expanding LRAP because tuition needs to be raised. From what Edley said there are number of reasons tuition is being raised, increasing faculty, updating the building, creating new centers, etc. The tuition is not being raised just to expand LRAP which is what it seems like a lot of people are misconstruing it as.

So why are people complaining about LRAP? We could leave LRAP the way it was, but we'd still have to increase tuition anyway. Latching onto LRAP as a point of contention does not advance the conversation.

11/25/2009 12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a 1L that was aware of the plans for fee hikes when I decided to come here, I must admit that the information was and is not as accessible as it should be.

I can appreciate that exact figures were probably not available, but the especially dramatic increase next year warranted a more forthcoming disclosure about these plans in the acceptance material or on the website than it received. A passing mention, buried deep in the Student Resource Packet we were sent, of UC Regents' "three year plan of fees for students in professional-degree programs," with assurances that Berkeley Law "continues to be one of the best values in legal education" is the closest thing I see to mentioning the plan for fee increases.

I would encourage those that decided to come here without realizing that their tuition was already scheduled to be almost $48,000 by their 3L year to consider if and how it would have changed their decision and also accept the fact that the information was probably not being maliciously withheld from you.

11/25/2009 3:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, James and 10:21.

As a social justice lovin' 2L, I'm depressed by the fact that some factions in this debate have been resorting to the blunt indelicacies of partisan labeling. Attempting to silence others by calling them "conservative" or "reactionary" isn't really different from attempting to do the same by calling them "liberal." Addressing the differences of opinion rippling through the student body with these broad, divisive brushes is, technically speaking, a bogus tactic. If you got into this Boalt then you can certainly do better.

I'm for the fee hikes. AND I'm for transparency. I'm for working with Edley et al. and keeping our overlords accountable. I care about diversity AND about being an excellent law school (and gotcha-questions aside, you know Edley does too - seriously wtf was that) Why can't we discuss these issues without vainly pulling the liberaller-than-thou card?

11/25/2009 9:24 AM  
Blogger SC said...

very well said, 9:24. kudos.

11/25/2009 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12:00 a.m.,

I don't think anyone is complaining about LRAP. I think it's the opposite - people are pretty happy with LRAP.

The big issue is whether the LRAP people like so much is going to be there for them down the road. Edley says it will be, but that's hardly an ironclad guaranty, and it's not hard to see even "modest" cuts to it coming down the pike. Particularly if times get leaner.

As importantly, at least to my mind, the current plan of raising tuition in the midst of a shrinking economy poses a bigger issue for what is likely to be a growing "middle class" of Boalt graduates. People who do not make big-law money and don't take LRAP eligible jobs. Not exactly sure how those folks are going to pay off 150k in debt.

11/25/2009 10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must be missing something. Edley is not the one raising the tuition. UC Berkeley is not the one raising the tuition. It's the REGENTS. So how exactly were the Admissions/Financial Aid offices and Edley supposed to know, way back in April or whenever people got their admissions letters and info about the cost of attending Boalt, exactly how much tuition was going to go up? These aren't decisions being made internally. They're not in the control of Boalt administration or Berkeley administration. They're set by the Regents, who are reacting to whatever is going on in Sacramento regarding budgets.


So.... someone tell me why everyone is in an uproar against Edley and Boalt admin specifically about not knowing about fee increases and the lack of transparency when these complaints should be raised against the Regents. It seems misguided to think complaining at the law school is somehow going to effect what happens at the Regent level. Go complain directly to the Regents. Or Sacramento. Get all the grad schools on all the campuses to join together to protest professional fees. But placing the blame on the wrong people, in the wrong place, is getting old.

11/25/2009 11:27 AM  
Blogger Armen said...

11:27, in fairness, the budget process is initiated in-house. So Edley submits his budget request / proposals to Birgeneau. Birgeneau sends it (probably by e-mail) to UCOP, UCOP to the Regents, and the Regents either approve or not. Also DE had an understanding with the Regents that the law school fee increases would be approved and kept in-house (as opposed to funding Celtic poetry).

11/25/2009 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:06,

How is that related to the tuition increases? Prior to the tuition increases, LRAP could still have run out of money or ceased to exist. Why is this a concern now.

I think the strikers are grasping at straws now.

11/25/2009 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While that is true Armen, the ultimate decision is not Edley's.

11/25/2009 1:05 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

But the ultimate decision-maker can't decide what specific cuts to make or how much to increase fees unless it is first proposed. I mean I've been defending DE until my throat got sore (literally), but I really don't think there's much debate that if you're unhappy with the law school's financial decisions then he's rightfully the proper target of your angst. I just don't think telling the protesters to stick it to the Regents is a fair criticism.

11/25/2009 1:09 PM  

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