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The University of Minnesota Law School is the latest public law school to flirt with the idea of weaning itself off public funding. University President Eric Kaler is considering a proposal that essentially would privatize the finances of both the law school and the business school. Minnesota’s law school would not be the first to go that route. The University of Virginia School of Law, the University of Michigan Law School and the University of California, Berkeley School of Law each receive little to no public money, and former Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Dean Paul Schiff Berman last year proposed eliminating public funding gradually over five years. Berman has since accepted the deanship at George Washington University School of Law and it was unclear what will happen with his proposal. Minnesota Law Dean David Wippman, who was traveling on July 5 and unavailable for comment, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he was not the driving force behind the idea. However, he noted that public funding has fallen off drastically in recent years as the state and the university have struggled with budget shortfalls. The university faces a state budget cut of as much as $70.8 million next year. Public money accounted for 22% of the law school’s operating budget in the 2008-’09 academic year, but that figure is now about 12%, or slightly more than $5 million of the school’s $42 million budget. The percentage of public financing is expected to fall below 10% during the next academic year. The financing proposal would entail bringing in-state tuition more in line with out-of state tuition. In-state tuition now runs about 20% less but would move within 10% of out-of-state tuition. Similar strategies are being adopted by a growing number of public law schools. Incoming and current Minnesota law students are already feeling the financial pain. Tuition for returning law students will increase by 7.4% next year, while first-year state residents will pay 9.3% more. There are some financial benefits to self-sufficiency, Wippman told the Star Tribune. Schools that have eliminated their reliance on public funding have enjoyed more success in private fundraising, he said. The law school is in the midst of a $70 million fundraising campaign, with a goal of spending $30 million on scholarships, stipends and internships.   Contact Karen Sloan at [email protected] .

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