Erwin Chemerinsky, Law Schools, Money, Student Loans

UC Irvine School of Law: Now Offering 33% Scholarships to the Class of 2014

When the UC Irvine School of Law first burst onto the scene, the school offered free tuition to everyone in its inaugural class. Then, in its second year, UC Irvine offered a 50% discount to all students admitted to the class of 2013.

And now, UC Irvine will knock 33% off its tuition, for members of its third entering class (the class of 2014).

Students considering UC Irvine will certainly appreciate the money. The National Law Journal reports that, not counting the discount, in-state tuition is $40,000 a year and out-of-state tuition is $50,000 a year. Welcome to public law school in the 21st century.

Despite being a public law school, UC Irvine will fund this tuition reduction through private donations. So you have to wonder: how long can they keep that up?

Here’s the UC Irvine press release, which explains where the school is getting the money to help keep down the cost of its tuition:

“Because of the generosity of Mark Robinson and others, UCI Law will continue to provide generous scholarships to help us attract top-quality students, said Dean Erwin Chemerinsky. “These scholarships will also help reduce the debt burdens of our students by the time they are ready to pursue careers in law and public service.”

As with the classes of 2012 and 2013, members of the class of 2014 will enjoy the 33% reduction for all three years on campus.

Dean Chemerinsky is exactly right. If he wants students to be able to pursue a career in public service, he can’t have students paying $40,000 or $50,000 per year to get a J.D.

The problem is that Chemerinsky said this two years ago, when he was able to make law school entirely free. He made the public service connection last year, when tuition was half-price. He’s saying it again this year. Can he say it next year, when tuition is (maybe) reduced by 16.5%? Eventually, UC Irvine students are going to have to pay the full sticker price. What happens to the public service dreams of Chemerinsky and others then?

Chemerinsky wants public law schools to be training and producing lawyers ready to use their legal knowledge in the service of the public good. But it seems the state of California wants to use law students to fill its budget gaps. The goals seems at odds, with Chemerinsky fighting a battle against law student exploitation that he might not be able to win.

And as UC Irvine moves closer to being just as expensive as any other public law school in California, its ability to attract excellent students could become an issue, according to Paul Caron of Tax Prof Blog:

It will be interesting to see what effect the continued decline of scholarship assistance has on the quality and competitiveness of the entering class — there were 2,741 applicants for the inaugural class (with 100% scholarships) and 983 applicants for the second class (with 50% scholarships). UC-Irvine plans to admit 100 students in the Class of 2014, and will eventually admit 200 students per year.

While this is a battle UC Irvine might not win, at least they are fighting the good fight. Compare Chemerinsky’s plan to use private donations to keep tuition low with ASU Law Dean Paul Berman’s plan to deal with the broke state of Arizona by charging the hell out of ASU Law students. UCI’s dean says that “these scholarships will also help reduce the debt burdens of our students.” ASU’s dean says that he’s “not concerned that increasing the J.D. class size will make it harder for graduates to secure employment.”

So yeah, if you are really considering going to law school, you might want to get in on this 33% tuition reduction thing while you can. It’s probably not going to be here forever.

Irvine paying one-third of tuition for new class [National Law Journal]
UC-Irvine to Give 33% Scholarships to Third Entering Class [Tax Prof Blog]

Earlier: Arizona State Law School Moving Towards Private Funding Model: Prepare to be Gouged, ASU Law Students

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