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Dean Perschbacher Addresses UC Regents on Professional Fees

News Posted on January 22, 2007

At a meeting before the UC Regents on January 17, 2007, at UCSF, Dean Rex Perschbacher outlined the impact of decreased state funding on UC professional schools over the past five years.

To offset state-funding losses and inflationary costs, the UC Office of the President and the California Legislature mandated that UC law schools substitute these losses with professional-student fee increases. As a result, fees have increased dramatically, doubling in the past six years.

Perschbacher explained that UC law schools have been placed in the position that they now need a stable- and guaranteed-fee increase of as much as 7 percent annually to keep up with staff salary and benefits increases and inflation and even more to invest in valuable new programs, initiatives, and financial aid. He expressed regret that, "Currently, there is no exit from this spiral which requires professional-fee increases at 7-10 percent annually just to keep even."

While the dean of UC Berkeley's law school spoke at the meeting about substantially increasing professional fees by 13 percent to cover law school operating costs, an expanded faculty, and to help advance Boalt Hall into the top five of the U.S. News and World Report rankings, Perschbacher said that it was important that different campuses and professional schools retain flexibility to set fees to reflect their differing goals and market positions.

Perschbacher expressed concern that the current policy of increasing professional fees risks changing forever the public nature of UC law schools. He talked about the legacy of UC Davis School of Law and its alumni who've contributed to the public service and public interest communities of California. 

"We proudly list among our earliest graduates former and current legislators and other public leaders Art Torres, Elihu Harris, Congressman George Miller, and current or recent California legislators Darrell Steinberg, Dario Frommer, Charles Calderon, and Pedro Nava, civil rights leader Angela Oh, the 2006 President of the Bar Association of San Francisco, Joan Haratani, and noted author Gus Lee," Perschbacher said. "Our graduates lead Legal Services offices up and down this state."

Perschbacher added, "These noted public leaders attended UC Davis School of Law when it was truly a public law school, available to all California residents who showed the ability to qualify to attend law school." He said, "This promise of a first-rate legal education based on ability, provided by the people of the state of California with an implicit agreement that our graduates recognized they owed something in return to the people of the state of California was embodied in the low-fee policy that truly welcomed applicants with and without the means to attend private law schools here in California or elsewhere.  It was a legal education open to every generation of Californians, including its newest residents, first generation Californians." 

He said that drastic fee increases "are a tragic loss and waste of a great investment by the people of California." He warned the Regents about increasing fees too much and asked if advocates of steep increases could guarantee they would not discourage the next generation of Californians considering law as a profession.

During a PowerPoint presentation, Perschbacher showed the numbers. Davis Law students are facing overwhelming fees of $25,000 annually and rising.  He said, "This is an enormous barrier to the newest, neediest, and most generously-spirited California undergraduates dreaming of a legal career."

Caught in a Catch-22 dilemma, the Dean acknowledged that the Law School benefits, and now needs, funds made available through professional fees. The only alternative he sees is a return to state and campus reinvestment in our law schools and the enhancement of private giving to support new programs, financial aid, and loan repayment assistance programs.

He stated that realistically, people cannot expect a return to more fully state-supported legal education, but he asked the Regents to help stop the further privatization of law school funding. 

Also at the meeting, UC Davis Professor of Law John Oakley, chair of the UC Academic Senate and Regent Delegate, spoke, adding that if the university continues to drastically raise professional school fees, it risks being a place just for the children of rich families. "Let's try harder to have world-class excellence at a public university subsidized by a program of public funding so it's open to all students who are Californians," he said.

Perschbacher ended his presentation with a note of hope. "Nevertheless, we are not discouraged, and we will continue to advance our efforts to build a great law school, a truly public law school, a place of personal promise for all our students, one that welcomes everyone based on their intelligence and ability, and that carries out its mission of teaching, scholarship and service to the community, the state, the nation and the world."

Perschbacher's Remarks (MS Word)

Perschbacher's PowerPoint Presentation (PDF)