UMass Law Pros and Cons

Pros:

UMass President Jack Wilson, Governor Deval Patrick, UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean MacCormack and Southern New England Law School officials contend that the financials for the proposal have been fully vetted and will not incur further costs to the UMass system, but in fact will generate new income:

The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth law school, just like every other graduate program developed on our campus over the last decade, would not require any additional tax dollars. It would be funded by the estimated $22.5 million donation of private assets, and by annual law student charges, grants, and private fund-raising.

. . .

 

The UMass Dartmouth School of Law would generate nontax revenue for both the university and the Commonwealth during difficult fiscal times. Priced at just under $24,000 (before financial aid), this school would generate $5.7 million in student charges and become a magnet for federal, corporate, and foundation grants, as well as private philanthropic funding. In the first year, we would return $600,000 in tuition to the Commonwealth general fund.

The full proposal and other supporting materials are available on the UMass Dartmouth website.  I strongly recommend reading the full proposal.

 

Cons:

 

From State Sen. Stan Rosenberg:

Rosenberg is now working with three other senators to draft legislation that would bar state funding for the law school.

“I’m worried that we’re taking on another major financial commitment for which we don’t have adequate resources,” Rosenberg said.

“All five of the campuses have initiatives that are underfunded,” Rosenberg continued. “To take on another new obligation with a promise that it’s not going to require any state funding, and there is no way to hold them to that, is worrisome to me.”

From State Rep. Ellen Story:

“A public law school is a wonderful idea and it’s long overdue, but to pretend it won’t cost the state any additional money is not realistic,” Story said.

“The university is already being severely cut, and my worries are that the university will be cut even further because there will be another school that needs to be funded out of the same pot of money,” she said.

From UMass Amherst Faculty Senate secretary Prof. Ernest May:

“When we’re in such an unstable economic time it certainly seems like it’s going to be extremely problematic just to maintain the current programs we have in the next six months,” said Ernest D. May, secretary to the Faculty Senate.

“There are so many mouths to feed,” he added. “Why add another mouth?”

 

. . .

 

May said he is concerned the plan doesn’t take into account all the pieces necessary to make the law school a great law school. To be comparable to the public law school at the University of Connecticut, the UMass law school would have to hire about 45 more professors.

 

“We’re talking about a major expansion and upgrade here,” May said. “We have no idea whether this is going to be a modest give-back or a catastrophe adding another mouth in a deeply unstable economic time.”

From Western New England College School of Law Dean Arthur Gaudio:

Gaudio was the dean of a public law school at the University of Wyoming and worked for the American Bar Association administering to its accreditation committee. He predictsthe UMass law school would need at least $9.6 million from the university system or the state in its first year, at least $52 million in the first five years, and at least $91.8 million in the first decade.

His estimates are based on annual operating costs, tuition discounts needed to attract high-achieving students, and average per-student costs for public law schools in New England.

 

“It is not possible for an American Bar Association-approved law school, or one seeking approval, to operate solely on the stated tuition funds without incurring a substantial cost” to UMass or the state, he said in a letter to UMass trustees.

And, for what it’s worth, from Above the Law:

And you’ll have jobs for those 559 graduates, right? You know, jobs, those things that make going to law school a non-economically ruinous endeavor. You’ve done the economic impact studies to show that the Massachusetts legal market can support all of the new graduates you intend to churn out?

Southern New England can’t find jobs for the 235 people it has there right now.

Key dates to remember:

  • The state Board of Higher Education is expected to vote on approval in early February 2010.
  • The school will not seek provisional ABA accreditation until the 2011-12 academic year.