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U Of M Law School Prepares For No State Funding

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(credit: Jupiter Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — With another round of cuts to higher education expected from the Legislature this year, the University of Minnesota Law School is adapting in a dramatic way — by working toward financial independence.

Law school officials say if the cuts continue, their share of the university’s state money could dry up completely within a few years. If that happens, they will have to rely on private donations and tuition.

Law school Dean David Wippman told Minnesota Public Radio he thinks the law school will lose most of its remaining state funding this year, and could lose all of it shortly after that.

Currently, about 12 percent — or just over $5 million — of the school’s $42 million budget comes from the state. University administration decides how the state dollars are allocated.

Even without public money, Wippman said the law school would remain public and would still be a part of the University of Minnesota system.

The possibility comes as the school embarks on a major fundraising effort: the Generations campaign. The five-year campaign comes with a $70 million goal, most of which is expected to come from law school alumni. Needy students will get $30 million of that in the form of financial aid scholarships.

Twin Cities attorney Bruce Mooty, a 1980 graduate of the law school and co-chair of its fundraising campaign, said when he was at the school, state support made up about 80 percent of its budget.

“It will probably be zero in the not too distant future,” Mooty said.

Law school officials don’t expect they’d need to increase class sizes in the event they reach the point of financial self-sufficiency, but they would need to increase the price of tuition.

That’s a scary thought for second-year law student Ben Tozer. He and his classmates already pay $30,000 per year in tuition and fees.

“It’s definitely something they wonder and worry about,” Tozer said. “There’s a lot of concern about how it’s going to affect tuition.”

If tuition does shoot up to offset the loss of state funds, law school officials said they would then direct more money toward scholarships for students.

The school would join a handful of public law schools across the country that don’t receive state funding.

The University of Virginia law school adopted the model nearly a decade ago, and Arizona State University set a goal of becoming self-sufficient in five years. ASU is currently 34 percent publicly funded.

To replace state funding, ASU officials said they’d need to increase their $21,000 per year tuition and fees and make way for bigger incoming classes.

University of Minnesota officials are in the process of determining whether the financial self-sufficiency model could be implemented in other schools of the university.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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