In a comment on an earlier post, Daniel Suhr suggested that in this time of economic downturn the state of Wisconsin should consider eliminating the tuition subsidy that it provides for students at the University of Wisconsin Law School. As he points out, virtually of all the graduates of the law school begin their careers making higher salaries than the average Wisconsin resident and thus are arguably in a better position to pay for their legal education than the state’s taxpayers. Marquette would obviously benefit from such a policy change, but the proposal has merit above and beyond what it would do to restore the competitive balance between the state’s two law schools.
There is also nothing particularly radical about such a proposal. In fact, several highly regarded state law schools in different parts of the country have already all but abandoned subsidies for in-state students.
At the University of Virginia, where I am currently teaching as a visiting professor, out-of-state students pay tuition of $43,800, while Virginia residents pay almost as much, $38,800 (or 88.6% of out-of-state tuition). The gap is even narrower at the University of Michigan, where the out-of-state/in-state differential is $46,010 vs. $43,010 (or 93.5%). The University of Minnesota is somewhat more generous to Minnesota residents, but such students still pay 73% as much as out-of-staters ($25,324 vs. $34,726).
In contrast, in-state law students at the University of Wisconsin pay only $16,426 in tuition, which is just 45% of the $36,350 paid by most out-of-state students. (Because of the reciprocity compact, Minnesota residents attending the UW law school are charged $26,342.)
If in-state students at the University of Wisconsin Law School were required to pay the 93.5% of out-of-state tuition paid by Michigan residents at the University of Michigan, Marquette would actually have a slight tuition advantage ($32,410 vs. $33,987).
As Daniel Suhr also noted, former state representative Frank Lasee proposed several years ago that the state stop subsidizing public legal education. The idea failed to take hold at that time, but conditions may be right to revive the idea.
Tuition figures for the five law schools mentioned in this post are taken from the law schools’ web pages.