Is your University short of cash? Just increase law school tuition.

Let’s say you’re the dean of a law school on the East Coast with just four years as dean under your belt. As your accomplishments, you can list the following:

  • Increasing the school’s US News Ranking from 170 to 117
  • Higher bar passage than when hired
  • A new building almost completed
  • Securing a donor willing to plunk down enough cash to put his name on the school.

What’s the result? How about a call from the president of the university to ask for your resignation?

That’s what has happened to University of Baltimore Dean Phil Closius.

Yep. Because he complained that the law students shouldn’t be subsidizing the rest of the university.

Heck, not even that. He just complained that the School of Law should not subsidize the rest of the University as much as it was. Over the last year, University of Baltimore School of Law revenues have increased $1,455,650, but the law school’s budget itself has only increased $80,774. For those of you, like myself, who attended law school because math was not their strong suit, that’s a difference of $1,374,876.

Where is all that extra law school tuition going? Not the law school. Not for more professors and smaller classes. Not for more law school scholarships, building improvements, clinics, workshops, internships, or career training (which is sadly lacking in most law schools). Nope. It’s going to elsewhere in the University of Baltimore.

Rather than increasing tuition so that the School of Law can better prepare its students to compete in a ho-hum legal market, the University is fleecing them. In other words, law students are going to graduate with an average of $90,000 in debt because the University was greedy.

And Phil Closius had the gall to speak out against it. From his resignation letter:

Every seven years, the ABA inspects law schools for renewal of their accreditation. The law faculty drafted a self study in the spring of 2010 as part of our ABA reinspection process. The percentage of law revenue retained by the University was emphasized as a significant concern of the faculty in that document. I believe a law school dean has a continuing responsibility to share accurate data regarding the law school and its operations. In the past year, I distributed the financial data I had to the faculty and the Dean’s Advisory Board in order to inform them about the increasing scope of the problem. Both bodies were concerned about the continued ability of the law school to reach its potential without sufficient funding and the inequity of charging law students increasingly high tuition and fees if a significant percentage of those funds were not directly benefitting the law school. Both the faculty and the alumni insisted that I continue in my efforts to obtain more financial data and a University agreement to decrease its retention percentage over time. I was criticized by the central administration for sharing the financial data with the faculty and my advisory board. University officials also stated that providing funding for the continued improvement of the School of Law was not a high priority for the University.

Awkward…especially when the ABA came back and said that it ought to be a high priority for the University.

We were inspected this last academic year and the University and I received the final report of the ABA Accreditation Committee on July 27. The report generally praised the condition of the law school but indicated a concern, among others, about the substantial amount of money the law school contributes to the University and the lack of a University explanation of a rationale by which the money retained by the University is determined. The ABA Committee requested that the University President and Dean submit a report by March 12, 2012 which provides in part a rationale for the School of Law’s share of costs for non-law school activities and central administration services and information about any agreement between the Law School and the University regarding a fair process by which the Law School’s contribution to the University for direct and indirect costs will be determined. The day after receipt of the ABA report, I was asked to resign.

I hope US News is reading this, and that it slaps the University of Baltimore back down to 170 and the subsequent drop in law school applications. Perhaps when U of B is hit where it obviously needs help–in its wallet–its Harvard educated President will start investing in law school, and thereby the students, rather than ripping them off and limiting their career opportunities with a mountain load of debt.

(See also “Law School Economics: Ka-ching” in the New York Times on how law school tuition has increased four times the rate of undergraduate tuition, but without any corresponding increase in post-JD compensation…all while we’ve got the biggest recession in legal employment in our history going on).

(h/t Above the Law)

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