UMN Law School seeks additional funding

The University of Minnesota Law School hopes the additional funding will offset the impact of decreases in enrollment.

The University of Minnesota Law School is seen on Tuesday, June 5.

Image by Tony Saunders

The University of Minnesota Law School is seen on Tuesday, June 5.

by Michelle Griffith

The University of Minnesota Law School is seeking additional funding to account for declining enrollment and maintain its admissions standards.

On June 8, the Board of Regents will vote on University President Eric Kaler’s proposed funding increase for the University’s law school, which would help offset the school’s deficit. The law school is projected to have a $4.1 million deficit by the end of fiscal year 2018, according to the school and the University’s Office of Budget and Finance. 

In Kaler’s recommended budget, the University would provide the school with a one-time $1.9 million payment and an annual operations funding for three years. The annual funding would start at $1.7 million and gradually fall to $1.3 million in the final year. 

The funding request has caused debate about the school’s high admission standards and its yearly appeal to Regents for more funding. In a May presentation to the board, the University’s law school requested additional funding to maintain a high academic ranking. 

Some within the law school have been supportive of the additional funding request. 

“Obviously, everyone wants to see a time when we can get back to the budgets we had before the recession, but … I’d much rather have a school that decides to keep its standards,” said University law student Robert Dube. 

The University’s law school ranks 20th in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. Many law school students and faculty use U.S. News and World Report to determine a law school’s esteem, said University law school graduate Michael Sikora. Adding, many employers favor applicants with degrees from high-ranking schools.

Sikoria said lowering the University’s admissions could affect University law graduates’ desirability among local employers.

School ranking is based on admitted students’ LSAT scores and GPA, among other factors. Only seven public universities, including two from the Big Ten, are ranked in the top 20.

The law school received around $40.4 million from the University during fiscal year 2018. 

University Regent Michael Hsu said the requested funds are not substantial and would increase the law school’s budget by $3.6 million in the first year, however he questions the school’s need for additional funding. 

“The questions are, ‘How much is enough for the law school?’ and ‘Are their expenses out of control?’” Hsu said, adding that people need to consider accumulative totals rather than one-time increases. 

According to Hsu’s own analysis, if the law school continues to request an increase in funding annually, the University could be giving the law school nearly $100 million by fiscal year 2023.

Hsu compared the University’s law school to the University of Michigan Law School, which is ranked eighth in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report. With a budget of more than $42 million for fiscal year 2017, University of Michigan has approximately 1.5 times more students than the University of Minnesota Law School, according to data from the University of Michigan. 

In fall 2017, 566 full-time students were enrolled in the University’s law school, an approximately 23.5 percent decrease from fall 2012. 

To offset the shrinking number of students, in-state tuition for the school has increased by approximately 16 percent since the 2012–2013 academic year. 

Hsu said he wonders how many resources should go to maintaining the law school’s high ranking when the University has other graduate schools to worry about. 

The University’s Medical School is currently tied as the 46th best in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.