Law School Deans, Law Schools, Student Loans

13% Tuition Increase + 1% Faculty Salary Cut = 100% Screwing of Minnesota Law Students

CORRECTION: This post has been revised since it was first published to reflect the fact that the 13.5% tuition hike for in-state students occurred this summer and applies to the current academic year (2010-2011).

Last year, the University of Minnesota contemplated imposing a significant tuition hike on its law students, while trying to keep college tuition low. This year, Minnesota did in fact push through the tuition increase, while protecting the high salaries of its law school faculty.

Paul Caron at Tax Prof Blog pointed us to a number of reports about how Minnesota hiked law school tuition by 13.5% for this academic year, while planning to cut faculty salaries by only 1.15% in the 2011 fiscal year. So Minnesota law students, if you were hoping for a dollop of Astroglide along with your next tuition bill, you have my sympathy. The administration at Minnesota Law doesn’t even have the common courtesy to give you a reach-around.

Law school administrators don’t care about you, current and prospective law students. They don’t even have to pretend to care about your problems anymore…

In fairness to Minnesota, it is one of many schools feeling the pinch as state governments drastically cut back on state funding of educational institutions. But it is shameful that the school has once again raised the rates on students during the most difficult legal job market anyone can remember, while offering no new services or training that might help students get the kinds of jobs they need to afford that increased sticker price.

Sadly, we’re used to this kind of gross exploitation of law students. See my post on the new plans at Arizona State for more on that.

But the news coming from Minnesota Law Dean David Wippman is new in at least one way. I don’t recall a dean throwing his faculty (and their salaries) under the bus when he tries to explain why he’s willing to tempt law students into ruinous financial decisions. Here, announcing a 1% faculty salary cut while price-gouging law students invites people to compare the high salaries enjoyed by his law professors against the terrible job prospects destroying his student body.

Could it be that Dean Wippman lives inside a bubble where a 1% salary cut looks like the entire law school is “sharing the pain”? He can’t be that misguided. He’s not going to have professors prancing around acting like the faculty is making meaningful “sacrifice” too. He’s not that tone-deaf, is he?

Wait, no, I don’t want to read the report from the Minnesota Daily:

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.

“The administration is doing a good job given the situation,” University senior attorney Carl Warren said. “Everybody recognizes it’s a difficult time and hard choices are being made … Sacrifices are necessary.”

I’m not going to slam Carl Warren. He was just following orders, for all I know.

But David Lat just showed me a fun trick. Since Minnesota is a public university, you can look up the salaries of their faculty and staff. Type “Wippman, David” into this website, and you’ll see that the dean of Minnesota Law School pulled down $386,560 in 2009-2010.

I think that’ll be more dramatic if I type it out: Dean Wippman made three hundred eighty-six thousand, five hundred and sixty dollars last year! And he wants somebody to believe that taking a 1% pay cut, while raising tuition, constitutes sharing the pain? The gopher is the university mascot, not the expected mental acuity of Minnesota students.

Tuition, fees, and living expenses for a 1L at Minnesota amount to $45,424 in-state. Basically, Dean Wippman is living in a world where the only person who can afford to be a Minnesota Law student is Dean Wippman.

Those are hard numbers. And, of course, Dean Wippman is dealing with some challenging numbers as well. The people at Faculty Lounge make the dean’s case:

Over the next two years, the Minnesota legislature will reduce its contribution to the law school from 22% of its budget to 11%. That’s serious money – millions of dollars per year. To deal with this problem, the school hiked tuition 13.5% this year. Indeed, tuition at the U has jumped about 33% over the past four years.

While the administration is working to beef up gifts, endowment is a very difficult way to make up revenue. The school would need to raise well north of $40 million dollars to cover a $2 million shortfall. Plainly, tuition is an essential approach to filling the gap. A $3000 tuition hike at a school with 780 students yields $2.34 million in revenue. Even if the school gives back a quarter of that in scholarship, that’s enough to keep on lots of lights.

The problem here is that we know Dean Wippman isn’t just trying to “keep the lights on.” He’s trying to keep his faculty, in a well-paid and happy state. He’s trying to protect his own $386,560 salary. If the tuition was going up so that Minnesota could be doing the things it needs to do to get law students legal jobs, that would be one thing. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, tuition is going up so faculty can keep getting paid.

Or, here’s how the teachers phrase it:

There will be top-tier schools that want to compete with their private brethren. This means staying nose to nose with private schools on both faculty compensation and course load. It also means investing in institutes, centers, and programs that facilitate research.

That’s code for “cut my salary or increase my teaching responsibilities, and I’m totally out of here.” And it’s probably right. If Minnesota asked its faculty to truly “sacrifice” because of market conditions, the faculty would bitch, and the best professors would bolt. Of course, by “best” we don’t necessarily mean the faculty members who do the best job of training young lawyers. We don’t necessarily mean the faculty members or administrators who are the best at helping law students get jobs. We’re talking about the people who are the best at getting on whatever list of “best faculty” professors read when they’re at their community circle-jerk faculty meetings.

Law schools exist to provide a platform for scholarly legal work. They exist to make money for the university. They exist so people like Dean Wippman can pull in six-figure salaries without meeting the soul-crushing expectations of billing 3,000 hours a year.

Training lawyers is somewhere way down that list. Helping students get jobs isn’t even on the list.

And that’s why Minnesota can get away with doing what it’s doing. The numbers don’t lie. A 13% tuition increase against a 1% cut in faculty salaries; you tell me which constituency Minnesota Law cares about.

Minnesota Law Battles 50% State Subsidy Cut With 13% Tuition Increase, 1% Faculty Pay Cut [Tax Prof Blog]
After cuts, Law School eyes future [Minnesota Daily]
University Of Minnesota Law Prepares For State Budget Cuts [Faculty Lounge]
Minnesota Public Employee Salaries [TwinCities.com]

Earlier: Minnesota: Protects College Students, Sticks it to Law Students
Law Professors: If You’re Not Part of the Solution Then You’re A Huge Freaking Problem
Arizona State Law School Moving Towards Private Funding Model: Prepare to be Gouged, ASU Law Students

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