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“Privatize” isn’t the word Christopher Edley Jr. wants to use to describe his plan for improving UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. But it’s close. The new dean thinks outside money — $100 million initially — is needed to hire new faculty and repair Boalt Hall’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 and World Report‘s rankings of top law schools. Last year, it dropped to 13. “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 UC Board of Regents will soon learn whether Edley’s plans also include raising tuition for Boalt Hall’s 900 or so students next fall. Edley won’t say if it will happen or by how much, although he acknowledges the measure is a possibility. Tuition has already doubled at Boalt over the last four years. Its current non-resident tuition of $33,000 places the school in the range of Harvard and Stanford law schools. California residents, who make up about 70 percent of Boalt students, pay $21,000 annually. Third-year Boalt student Guy Johnson, 27, agrees seeking outside funding “is not just smart, it’s critical.” But he’s concerned about the burden on students — particularly minorities — for whom tuition costs already represent a huge barrier to law school. “It’s a double-edged sword,” said Johnson, also a member of La Raza Law Students Association. “You think about Boalt Hall’s unique position as a public institution — and these tuition increases fly right in the face of the school’s mission.” Edley, a former Harvard law professor who worked in the Carter and Clinton administrations, said 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 percent to 30 percent over the past two years, in October launched a campaign to raise money from alumni and other private donors to increase the school’s $30 million annual budget by 50 percent 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 percent of the school’s budget during the 1970s to 4 percent. “For all practical purposes, Michigan Law School is pretty much a private institution,” said Professor Emeritus Theodore St. Antoine, who served as the school’s dean in the ’70s and still teaches there. “We’re offering, in my judgment, a totally broader, richer education,” he added. “But in real dollars, our kids are paying nine times what I paid to go to this institution a generation ago.” The University of Virginia School of Law has long benefited from its nonprofit foundation. After a major campaign several years ago lifted the endowment to more than $200 million, it now supports a third of the school’s operating budget. But the school raised tuition, too. “There was a little resistance,” said Robert Scott, who served as dean from 1991 to 2001. “But when there’s no state support, there’s no justification for low tuition — the students understood.” In exchange for greater financial freedom, both schools also give money back to their parent universities. During the recession, the University of Virginia law school provided $1 million to the larger campus. “Frankly, it’s pretty hard to take money from the school, raise tuition and raise money at the same time,” Scott said. “One of those objectives may have to be sacrificed.” Edley said he would consider sharing revenues with the larger school. “Absolutely. I think a citizenship contribution is vital to the collective enterprise here,” he said. “Part of our greatness depends on the greatness of this research institution.” The UC Board of Regents, which must approve any tuition or fee increases but does not oversee the school’s fund-raising efforts, appears open to Edley’s ideas. The lack of public money “is an issue that’s on everybody’s minds,” said board spokeswoman Abby Lunardini. “Clearly there’s a need to be looking to private sources more and more for support.” The regents are likely to consider Edley’s proposal in March, Lunardini said. For some alums, the arrival of Edley, the first African-American head of a major law school, and the new fund-raising campaign are symbols of renewal. The last full-time dean, John Dwyer, left amid accusations that he had sexually harassed a female student. “[Fund raising] has to happen, because Boalt has gone from what has been a real preeminent position in California to kind of a ‘second-10′ law school,” said William Gagen Jr. of Gagen, McCoy, McMahon & Armstrong in Danville. A 1968 Boalt graduate, Gagen remembers paying $100 for tuition. He said it’s time alums gave back. “Frankly, attorneys who had a good education, as I think we did — and at a very low cost — should really come to the plate and help out,” Gagen said. “The new dean has come out clearly understanding where we need to go.” With enough support, Edley thinks Boalt Hall can become a top-five law school. Doing nothing isn’t an option, he said. “You can abandon the mission by letting quality decline or by choking off access and inclusiveness,” he said. “But we’re determined not to do that, which means making our case to alumni and other private investors while we cling fast to the reduced levels of state support we currently have.”

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