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La Verne College Of Law Announces ‘True Tuition Model,’ $25K Tuition Beginning In 2014-2015 Academic Year

Flat, No-Discount Tuition Advances Affordability and Accessibility of Legal Education

In the face of soaring U.S. legal education costs and an ever-widening wealth gap between scholarship and full-tuition law school students, the University of La Verne College of Law today announced its adoption of a flat, no-discount ‘True Tuition Model’ in effect for the 2014-2015 academic year and beyond.  Set at $25,000 per year for full-time students, the new tuition rate and structure address the affordability and accessibility of an ABA accredited legal education in Southern California.

“The time has come to tell the truth about the cost of legal education,” said Gilbert Holmes, newly appointed Dean of La Verne College of Law.  Holmes came to La Verne in June 2013 and quickly set to work re-envisioning the school’s legal education model, gleaning learnings from his 40 years of experience in legal practice, education and administration.  “Legal education costs have skyrocketed over the last decade.  Student debt is the highest it’s ever been.  And the disparity promoted by a rankings-driven merit scholarship model that leans on students with a sub-median LSAT performance [skewed in some instances by race, ethnicity and socio-economic factors] to fund advantaged, historically higher-scoring students, is something that we can no longer perpetuate,” said Holmes.  “At La Verne College of Law, we’re reconciling that disparity, opening the door to a quality legal education by setting a flat, fixed tuition level that’s reasonable for everyone.”

“Amid escalating costs – and concerns – associated with legal education, Dean Holmes has been laser-focused on students’ best interests, and in producing top-quality lawyers from diverse backgrounds,” said University President Devorah Lieberman.  “His vision for a ‘True Tuition Model’ at the College of Law perfectly aligns with the University of La Verne’s guiding principles of diversity, inclusivity and ethical reasoning, and we expect this new tuition structure will have a transformational impact on the law school, its students, and the region.”

Casting a True Tuition Model

La Verne College of Law full-time tuition had held constant at $39,900 for the past four years, with students eligible for various discounts.  Effective for the 2014-2015 academic year, La Verne College of Law tuition will be $25,000 per year for all full-time students, and $19,600 per year for part-time students.  This rate will be fixed for all three years of full-time students’ legal education, or all four years of part-time students’ education, with a provision for performance-based, outside-funded scholarships in the latter years.

To arrive at the $25,000 flat tuition figure, the College of Law closely examined loan availability [including unsubsidized Federal Stafford loans for graduate students, capped at $20,500 per year] in the absence of need-based aid for law students, as well as national median salary figures for first-year ABA accredited law school graduates, which the American Bar Association reports at $61,250 for the class of 2013.

“The $25,000 flat tuition rate allows students to finance a law school education with a loan repayment that’s going to be affordable on their starting salary,” said Stephanie Stovall, Director of Admissions & Financial Aid for University of La Verne College of Law.  “We’re propagating a truer form of access by charging the same tuition to all entering students, while being very cognizant of student loan debt.”

The new tuition rates will apply to currently enrolled second-, third- and fourth-year students, and the school will honor existing discount scholarships for those students.

A Compelling Case for Change

As recently as last month, two East Coast law schools – Roger Williams University of Law and Penn State University Dickinson School of Law – joined Ohio Northern University–Claude W. Pettit College of Law, University of Cincinnati College of Law and The University of Iowa College of Law in announcing tuition reductions for the 2014-2015 academic year.  Meanwhile, George Mason University School of Law – already one of the DC area’s most affordable schools with $25,531 in-state tuition – has announced a tuition freeze.

But unlike an outright tuition drop, the no-discount La Verne College of Law ‘True Tuition Model’ at once brings the tuition rate well within reach of many prospective law students, and places all students on the same economic playing field for funding their legal education.

While La Verne College of Law is the first law school to adopt such an altruistic pricing model, it’s not alone in its dissatisfaction with the predominant, high-tuition/ high-discount legal education game.  A late-January 2014 report published by the American Bar Association Task Force on the Future of Legal Education found that “the current system of pricing and funding in legal education demands serious re-engineering.”  An excerpt from the report reads:

“A widespread practice is to announce nominal tuition rates, and then pursue certain high LSAT or GPA students by offering substantial discounts (styled as scholarships) without regard to the recipient’s financial need.  Other students, by contrast, receive little if any benefit from discounting and must rely extensively on borrowing to finance their education…  This system has many deleterious features.  One is that it contributes to the steadily increasing price of legal education.  Another is that students whose credentials are the weakest tend to incur large debt in order to sustain the school budget and enable higher-credentialed students to attend at reduced (or even no) cost.”

At a flat $25,000 for all students, the geographically driven La Verne College of Law will hold the distinction of the most affordable ABA accredited legal education in California.  Holmes is the first to acknowledge that the new tuition rate could come across as an enrollment ploy.

“We are, undoubtedly, seeking to increase enrollment.  But it’s not solely about driving numbers.  It’s about enrolling more and more students from diverse backgrounds who embrace the values of social justice and equal opportunity, and who will not only be good law students but also upstanding guardians of society,” Holmes said.

Paying It Forward

The ‘True Tuition Model’ is one of five tenets of the new La Verne Law Model of Legal Education, as envisioned and enacted by Holmes in his first year as Dean.

The model centers on practicality, by:

  • developing basic skills for success, which Holmes playfully sums up as training ‘RAP’ artists – students who can Read critically, Analyze and think analytically, and Present well orally and in writing;
  • achieving high bar performance, leveraging the College’s Center for Academic & Bar Readiness to teach bar success concepts, skills and approaches throughout students’ law school experience [from orientation through post-graduate programming], all toward the main goal of producing licensed attorneys;
  • delivering a ready-to-practice curriculum that integrates experiential and doctrinal learning across both litigation and transactional law tracks;
  • serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration in the community, acting in good citizenship through assorted hosted symposiums, support of the arts, and advisement to historically underserved Inland Empire bar associations and judiciaries; and
  • maintaining affordability and accessibility through the ‘True Tuition Model.’

The Ontario, Calif.-based College has a longstanding history of enrolling and graduating students who want to make a difference in the region.  More than 90 percent of La Verne College of Law graduates live and work in California.  Of those, 95 percent practice in Southern California, with the Inland Empire – a region underserved by attorneys and faced with a growing need for trained legal professionals – retaining 50 percent of La Verne Law talent.

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