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San Francisco—”Privatize” isn’t the word that Christopher Edley Jr. wants to use to describe his plan for improving the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. But it’s close. The new dean thinks outside money—$100 million initially—is needed to hire new faculty and repair the law school’s standing in an era in which public money hasn’t kept up with costs. Three years ago, the school ranked seventh in U.S. News & World Report‘s rankings of top law schools. Last year, it dropped to 13th. “It’s folly to depend exclusively on the state budget to fund the vital investments we’re after,” said Edley, a nationally recognized civil rights attorney who joined the university in July. The University of California Board of Regents will soon learn whether Edley’s plans also include raising tuition for the law school’s 900 or so students next fall. Edley won’t say if it will happen or by how much, although he acknowledges that an increase is a possibility. Tuition has already doubled at the law school, also known as Boalt Hall, over the last four years. Its current nonresident tuition of $33,000 places the school in the range of Harvard and Stanford law schools. California residents, who make up about 70% of Boalt Hall students, pay $21,000 annually. Edley, a former Harvard law professor who worked in the Carter and Clinton administrations, said that any tuition increase would be matched with “the best financial aid program of any leading law school, public or private.” Edley, who said the state’s funding share for Boalt dropped from 45% to 30% over the past two years, launched a campaign in October to raise money from alumni and other private donors to increase the school’s $30 million annual budget by 50% over the next five years. Some of that increase would come in the form of gifts and in-kind contributions. The only other public universities consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10 law schools—the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia—have relied heavily on private money for more than a decade. Professors at both schools say it wasn’t so much a choice as a necessity. At the University of Michigan Law School, which is free to set its own financial agenda, state support has fallen from 25% of the school’s budget during the 1970s to 4%.

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