Michael Carroll Mar. 3, 2016, 8:56pm

BERKELEY – California’s cuts in funding for higher education over the past decade have whittled down the number of California residents attending the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, but the law school is trying to offset some of the tuition burden through other financial aid programs and private donations.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently reported that tuition and fees paid by in-state students at Berkeley Law have more than doubled since the fall of 2005. That’s caused the enrollment of in-state students at the law school to drop from 201 in 2005 to 153 in 2015, the newspaper reported.

“In previous decades, the state heavily subsidized the cost of an education for California’s public university students,” Susan Gluss, the communications deputy director at the law school, told the Northern California Record. “So, California students were able to pay substantially less than out-of-state students who weren’t subsidized.”

State funding represented 80 percent of the law school’s overall budget in 1990, Gluss explained, but that percentage has dropped to 20 percent today. And as a result, some of the cost burdens have fallen to the students and their families, she said.

The law school continues to make efforts to secure private funds to help students. 

“We actively seek donations from our dedicated alumni, friends of the law school, corporations, NGOs, foundations and much, much more,” Gluss said in an email. “The drop in state funding is a tough nut to fill.”

She stressed that Berkeley Law continues to invest in students, noting that two-thirds of current students receive grants or scholarships. Students can get a major assist in repaying student loans through the Loan Repayment Assistance Program, which repays loan debts of graduates who agree to take jobs in public-interest or government sectors, Gluss said.

In addition, the law school keeps space open for transfer students – those who were not initially admitted to Berkeley Law but show promise while attending another law school. In 2015, the law school enrolled an additional 37 California residents as transfers, Gluss said.

According to the law school’s records, resident tuition stands at $48,655 for the 2015-2016 academic year, while non-residents pay a tuition of $52,576. A decade ago, the law school’s tuition stood at about $24,000 for state residents, the Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, professional degree fees at the law school have remained frozen since 2011, and they will remain so for both resident and non-resident students through 2019. 

“That’s unprecedented and probably unique among all public law schools across the country,” Gluss said.

Despite the greater financial burden for in-state students, the law school’s professional degree programs remain in strong demand. Gluss said Berkeley Law has a goal of hiring six new professors this fall as the school fulfills its pledge to provide students with an exceptional legal education.

The resident vs. non-resident fee issue has drawn criticism among some Californians because they argue that state residents pay the taxes that support the University of California system and so should get a break in paying tuition and fees. But university officials respond that dramatic state funding cuts left them with little choice in order to maintain the quality of the educational programs.

Gluss stressed that a large portion of the fees goes to efforts such as improving the student-faculty ratio and expanding financial aid programs.

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