Day: 2010/11/10

Linkth Dimension—Law School Buildings

Three links.  I know I haven’t placed any substantive posts (or doodles) recently, but work has kept me busy.

(1) Josh Dawsey, “Law School Struggles,” in The Daily Gamecock (University of South Carolina student newspaper), part I, part II, & part III


Editorial, “In Our Opinion: Law School Needs New Building, Vision” in The Daily Gamecock

USC’s law school isn’t doing well, dropping into US News’s scorned third tier, and suffering a building with leaking ceiling tiles.

On the plus side, South Carolina has very few attorneys per capita (third standard deviation above average!), and average numbers of law students per capita, and lawyers/law students relative to economic indicators.  It’s probably much easier to start a practice there than elsewhere, if it is at all.

Meanwhile the law school has been asking for a new building since 1997, and it’s looking for funding.  I should also point out that SALT reports adjunct/assistant/full professors at USC make $99,190/$109,433/$155,666 per year, and in-state tuition is $19,034 per year, out-state $38,014 annually.  That should mean a minimum $13.7 million annual revenue, which isn’t enough to build the kind of multimillion dollar building law schools want (Marquette’s state-of-the-art law school building cost it $83 million, mostly paid by a $50 million gift from the Eckstein family).

The editorial reflects the exact attitudes universities have toward law schools and the value of their reputations:

Not only does [the unsafe law school building] discourage high quality applicants from attending USC Law in the future, but it exponentially decays the value of every juris doctorate degree the school has ever given to deserving future attorneys… A successful law school is critical to the image of any large university.

What is the half-life of a law degree?

This is the problem with rankings dog-piling and super-law-school arms races.  If law schools try to reduce their ecological footprints, or close (as some inevitably will), people will wonder what their “orphaned” juris doctors are really worth.

This doesn’t necessarily apply to USC, whose students deserve safe buildings.  Its law school also isn’t the costliest or worst-situated law school, but we need to remember that the genesis of legal education’s problems lies in a model that prioritizes reputation over the legal market’s demand.

(2) Elie Mystal, “Tuition Is Going Up at Notre Dame Law (But Not as High as Some Other Places),” in Above the Law

Speaking of new law school buildings, Dean Newton of Notre Dame responded to ATL about its tuition increases to pay for its long-term plan to increase faculty by 25%:

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.

That’s good, just not for the benefactors, who join the growing number of (I suspect without any direct evidence) older lawyers who give money to law schools that’d probably be better spent on lower rather than higher education institutions.  Marquette[i] moved into its new building this year.  It also increased tuition by 12% over the previous year.  Buildings are another place where tuition bubble monies go.

(3) Dan Treadway, “The Tuition Is Too Damn High,” in The Huffington Post

Mr. Treadway recommends starting campus political parties against higher education tuition–an idea I like.  He writes:

As President Obama has said, “Higher education is the economic issue of our time.” As such, politicians across the country must make funding our education system a priority. Doing so is not so much an expense as it is a solid investment. An uneducated populace will simply not be able to compete in the global economy moving forward. While Obama has taken positive steps to assist indebted students by advocating for more Pell Grants, this measure will only put a band-aid on what is a gaping wound.

An easier solution is to diminish lending to universities for bloated staff and facilities.  Student advocates should also know that at least 17 million Americans with higher education credentials work in jobs that don’t require them.  That excludes the large number of unemployed or underemployed college degree holders.  Global economic competition comes by…economic competition, not by simply throwing more money at universities, especially since most economic growth is going to wealthy Americans already.

[i] Is Eck Hall better than Eckstein Hall?  Or vice versa?