Law school plans shift to private funding

CHANGING LAW: The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law is looking to use private funding as an alternative to public money in light of the state’s budget crisis. (Photo byy Aaron Lavinsky)

Correction Appended

As the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law plans for future expansion, the University is looking for a way to run the school without public funds.

ASU officials are planning to partner with the private sector to move an expanded law school to the Downtown campus, and the changes could mean higher tuition for law students in the future.

With uncertain state funding for education, the law school continues to increase in size and requires a larger facility, said Paul Berman, dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

“We are, I would say, beyond capacity right now, or at least at capacity,” Berman said. “Our law school is increasingly popular with applicants from around the country and within Arizona.”

Funding from the state has not been a reliable source of revenue for the school for the past few years, he said. To deal with the capacity issues at hand, the school is considering changing how it is funded.

“Basically, that would mean our operating budget would be paid for from revenue sources that we create ourselves,” he said.

The school would then be funded through tuition and fundraising, Arizona Board of Regents President Tom Anderes said.

Berman added that funds would also come from research money.

“Over the next few years, it will mean the law school will have to get somewhat larger and that tuition is likely to increase in order to make up for the reduction in state funding,” Berman said.

The University wants to build a large 10- to 12-story complex on the Downtown campus that will house a new law school, law library and residential hall, ASU President Michael Crow said. The complex will most likely be called The Arizona Center for Law and Society, he said.

The increase in tuition will probably be a slight burden for law students, but won’t have much impact beyond that, said third-year law student Christopher Forbes.

“People who want to go to law school will still go, they’ll just take out more loans to go,” Forbes said. “If you want it bad enough, you’ll make it happen.”

There will, however, be more financial aid available with the higher cost of tuition, Anderes said.

A certain amount of the revenue from tuition and other funds goes to financial aid and scholarships. Therefore, as tuition increases, there will also be an increasing amount of scholarships or aid.

To combat the capacity problem, the law school is considering moving to the Downtown campus, Berman said.

“In order to generate the revenue … we need to become a larger law school,” he said. “We can’t [do that] in our current facilities and so we need to have expanded facilities, and building a new law school building downtown is one of the ways that could happen.”

Several law students have heard talk of relocating the school downtown for a while, but it has always been unofficial, Forbes said.

Most law firms, court buildings and internships for law students are located in downtown Phoenix, so the majority of students believe that moving the school there would make things easier for students, he said.

However, Forbes said there are probably a few students who would oppose the move.

In general, a new funding model will benefit both the law school and the University as a whole, Anderes said.

“The benefit is that the [state] dollars that are there supporting the law school now can be reused, reallocated in other parts of the University,” he said.

Reach the reporter at cottens@asu.edu