Law School Deans, Law Schools, Money, Student Loans

Tuition Is Going Up at Notre Dame Law (But Not as High as Some Other Places)

There’s been a lot of buzz coming out of Notre Dame Law. No, the students are not being being pressed into service to defend the university from Declan Sullivan lawsuits. Instead, ND Law dean Nell Newton held a town hall meeting with the students to discuss the future of the university.

After the public meeting, Dean Newton met with some students, and they got into a discussion about the future of tuition at the law school. Depending on whom you talk to (and we’ve now talked to a bunch of people), Dean Newton suggested during this private meeting that there would be either (1) a significant, “dear God, what are you doing” tuition increase at the private law school, or (2) a modest tuition hike. We’ll let you decide whom to believe.

But one thing is for sure: tuition is going up. Notre Dame will not be holding the line with tuition, so current and prospective law students should be prepared to pay more, despite the weakness in the legal economy…

Let’s start with our tipsters. Last week and over the weekend, multiple sources contacted us claiming that Notre Dame would be instituting a whopping $9,000 tuition hike in the coming year (or years, again, depending on the source). A $9,000 bump would amount to nearly a 25% increase in the school’s tuition. The tipsters claim that Dean Newton told them this directly after the town hall meeting, and the rumor had such force that the Notre Dame Student Bar Association was sending around emails and planning a response.

Why does Notre Dame need more money? Unlike public law schools, Notre Dame can’t claim that it is forcing a tuition hike on its students due to a decrease in state funding. Here’s one tipster’s theory:

Apparently the Law School needs the money for new initiatives in faculty hiring. Plus, I know my class is a lot smaller than other classes… which may be causing budgetary pressure, and the new building and library couldn’t have been cheap.

So that’s what the students are saying. But a lot of it seems to be wild rumors from students who are scared that Notre Dame will start screwing them like a Midwestern version of Arizona State.

Dean Newton believes that the students misinterpreted her post-meeting comments. A spokesperson for her office sent this statement to Above the Law:

First, I would like to clarify that no part – none – of the proposed tuition increase is being used to fund the new law school building. The new Eck Hall of Law and the renovation of Biolchini Hall of Law are already completely paid for by our generous benefactors.

In addition, I was with the dean when she spoke to students after the town hall, and at no point did she say anything about either a $9,000 or nearly 25 percent tuition increase. I’m honestly not sure how the students reporting on this conversation came to those numbers, but perhaps they were thrown off by the fact that the dean did reference her long-term plan to increase faculty size by 25 percent in the coming years…

Sorry about the confusion over the numbers, but the dean merely wanted to give students as much information as she could, and as early as possible, so that they can plan during the next few years.

This version of events makes sense to me. As we know, law students are terrified right now. Between law schools engaging in price-gouging and legal jobs being difficult to come by, there are a lot of law students who see only the negatives about their decision. And who can blame them? Many of them think they’ve already made one questionable decision; at this point, they’re just hoping their bad call doesn’t get materially worse.

But a 25% tuition hike would be nearly unconscionable. Unless Notre Dame manages its endowment like Harvard University, you’ve got to believe that there would be no reason for the school to do that.

Of course, it’s not like Notre Dame will be reducing tuition. From the ND statement:

The dean touched upon tuition (in both her town hall and afterward) only to stress that any increase would be modest, phased in over three years, and keep Notre Dame tuition below the median tuition of the top 30 private law schools.

You’ll find Notre Dame Law at #22 in your U.S. News guides. So I guess a top 30 tuition isn’t totally unreasonable. At least as long as we live in a world where every law school can get away with what they are charging.

I guess we can tell ND law students to calm down a little. While your dean is going to raise tuition, she’s not crazy. Trust me, that’s better news than you think. Ask your friends at other schools; “not crazy” is a quality in short supply.

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

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