Law Schools

State of Law School Giving Redux: HLS Offers New Options, South Carolina Had It Right All Along

On Monday, we reported that the kick-off for Harvard Law’s 2010 Class Gift pissed off a lot of current HLS students. Commenters told us that similar class gift drives were alienating students across the country.

Well, it seems the class marshals at HLS got the message. They decided to try to sell their students on exactly what their donations might fund:

Dear Class of 2010:

We wanted to provide you with more information and perspective on the Class Gift. The Class Gift is small sum of money donated by graduating students. This year there are three options for donating to the Class Gift:

(1) The Harvard Law School General Fund
(2) Student Financial Aid
(3) The Post-Graduate Student Funded Fellowship

Oh don’t worry, these HLS kids aren’t done with their slice of humble pie…

In their initial request for funds, the HLS class marshals asserted that Harvard Law School’s ridiculously high tuition doesn’t begin to cover the cost of one HLS student. They put a little more meat on those bones today:

As many of you have heard, unfortunately each student’s tuition does not cover even the majority of the per student cost of attendance. The remainder of this cost is covered by the generous donations from alumni and the interest growth on the endowment. Many of those alumni donation were given to a direct aspect of the school’s funding needs – such as tuition assistance, endowed faculty chairs, student organizational budgets, public interest, etc – and cannot be reallocated or used outside of those donor directives. While the law school may have a large endowment, much of it has already been locked into funding specific areas by such directed donations. The remainder of the school’s financial needs are covered by donations the Law School’s General Fund – which gives the Dean flexibility in making sure that many of the wonderful parts of Harvard that attract top students to attend here can continue — even if those programs or attractions do not receive annual funding from directed alumni donations.

Hmm … I wonder what could possibly be “locking up” such a large part of of Harvard’s endowment that the school needs to ask not-yet-graduates to chip in during a terrible recession? Anybody have an idea? Oh, I just thought of something:

In any event, it does sound like the kids have learned how to ask for money, instead of trying to shame people into giving it:

For me personally, $20 is still a significant amount of money, but when I consider the present and future value of my Harvard degree, I think it truly is “a pittance” in comparison. (We agree that maybe we could have found a better word than “pittance” in our earlier email.) It is important to me that Harvard Law can continue to fund the amazing variety of programs that attract students, that it can continue to hire and keep brilliant professors who inspire our students, and that it can continue to attract and produce future leaders. Each person who graduates from Harvard and goes on to do amazing things increases the value of my own personal Harvard degree – and if I can give $20.10 to ensure that we keep attracting students like my classmates here at HLS…. Then I am eager and honored to give.

I know there are many of our classmates who feel that they did not have the ideal Harvard Law School experience they had imagined — myself included — but I hope that maybe the act of giving, and thinking about why we are giving to Harvard, can help us to remember the good things about our experience here and end our time here with a more positive tone.

Whether you choose to give to the Class Gift or not is totally your personal decision and I assure you that we will respect that decision. I hope that you will understand that we believe very strongly that the spirit of a Class Gift is important, that student participation in the Gift is more important than the amount given, and so we will continue to advocate for it.

When I give something to a homeless guy on the street, I feel better about myself. I don’t think that making a donation to the giant corporation that is HLS would have quite the same effect on my mood. But I’ll try just about anything once. HLS, if you’re ever in my neighborhood, I’ll give you a dollar and we’ll see how things go.

Oh, I kid HLS, because frankly I’m amazed that arguably the wealthiest law school on the planet can seem so money grubbing in the middle of a recession. It’s like they haven’t even considered that asking for cash money just at the moment makes them look cheap.

For instance, check out what South Carolina Law is doing for its class gift:

I wanted to let you know about a creative approach to a class gift we developed this year at the University of South Carolina School of Law. Our class gift chair came up with the idea of donating service instead of money so that everyone (even those without jobs) could be involved. The goal was originally to donate a full year of service over the next five years – over 8,000 hours total. As of today, students have donated just shy of 10,000 hours and almost 70% of our class has participated. We feel that a non-monetary gift is appropriate for this economy and reflects our generation’s dedication to service, and we are very excited about the enthusiasm our class has shown.

If law schools insist on keeping up the rhetoric that a legal education is worth something in the current economy, then surely donating one’s educated time is as worthy as money.

Look, if the class of 2010 is able to actually cash in on their expensive degrees, many of them will look back fondly on their law schools and donate money. But right now all the class of 2010 has seen is three years of legal market recession during which their tuition went up. I don’t know how you spin that into “give us some more money.”

Right now, many people in the class of 2010 feel like they made a big time bet that’s about to backfire. You should probably give them a couple of years to recover from the recession and get their lives back on track…

Unless law schools are acknowledging that legal education is a tremendous scam and are attempting to get a few more bucks off the slow students before even they wise up.

Earlier: Open Thread: The State of Law School Giving

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