After cuts, Law School eyes future

A 50 percent cut in two years translates to increased tuition.

by Adam Daniels

Like every other college at the University of Minnesota, the Law School is facing a litany of budget woes, including a daunting cut in state funding from 22 percent to 11 percent in two years.
The results of this cut include a 13.5 percent increase in tuition this academic year and a 1.15 percent pay cut for faculty in the 2011 fiscal year.
Dean David Wippman revealed all this in the State of the Law School address to about 60 students Monday at Mondale Hall.
Wippman explained how the Law School plans to maintain quality through difficult times by focusing on alumni outreach, namely for fundraising purposes and mentoring current students.
âÄúThe administration is doing a good job given the situation,âÄù University senior attorney Carl Warren said. âÄúEverybody recognizes itâÄôs a difficult time and hard choices are being made âĦ Sacrifices are necessary.âÄù
The address was casual and was predominately a question-and-answer session for students to voice their opinions and concerns.
âÄúI feel like students arenâÄôt afraid to give feedback because the administration is so open,âÄù said first-year law student Derek Chin. âÄúThe thing that impresses me most about this school is that no one claims to be perfect, but everyone is willing to accept feedback.âÄù
While cuts have been drastic, Wippman said that since endowment is just beginning to become a viable part of the schoolâÄôs budget, âÄúWe didnâÄôt suffer as much.âÄù
Wippman compared the Harvard and Yale University law schools, which donâÄôt rely on state support.
âÄúYale, which [has] half of its spending coming from the endowment, experiences a 30 percent decline in the endowment value. They feel that.âÄù
To help bolster private funds at the University, the Law SchoolâÄôs two alumni advisory boards were merged.
The new board has raised about $10 million since 2009 and has numerous distinguished members, including former Vice President Walter Mondale.
Wippman said endowments are beginning to escalate, though he doesnâÄôt have the same view on state funding.
Some at the address said they felt as though the Law School was moving toward not using state funding at all.
âÄúWeâÄôre not there yet, but letâÄôs not say we wonâÄôt get there,âÄù Wippman said.
âÄúOur funding sources will look very different than how they did in the past,âÄù he said. âÄúThe University of Virginia, eight or nine years ago, said, âÄòOK, we are going to decline to accept any support from the state, we are going to go wholly self-sufficient financially,âÄô and that allowed them to present a very clear message to their alumni and their fundraising went way up. So, you can reach a tipping point.âÄù
Wippman said there are still uncertainties and tough decisions to come. Still, students walked away feeling satisfied.
âÄúI think itâÄôs a pretty realistic perspective of how itâÄôs going,âÄù said first-year law student Elizabeth Graber. âÄúItâÄôs not great, but itâÄôs not terrible either. I think, looking forward, heâÄôs hopeful, and I think [students are] hopeful.âÄù