UB pledges to spend more on its law school

University of Baltimore administrators announced Wednesday that they would boost the law school's base operating budget by $5 million over the next five years.

The agreement comes about 21/2 months after the law school's dean resigned, saying that an outsized amount of program funds was being funneled to other parts of the university.

The extra $1 million a year would augment the law school's operating budget by about 5 percent, said Robert L. Bogomolny, the university's president, in an interview Wednesday. Bogomolny and F. Michael Higginbotham, interim dean of the School of Law, released the budget plan in an email to law students.

The increase will be funded by giving the law school a larger percentage of the revenue it generates, Bogomolny said, in addition to stepped-up fundraising and possible tuition hikes. The extra money could be used to expand the faculty, improve digital library offerings and shore up some of the school's weaker programs, he said.

Faculty committees will determine how the new funds are spent, said Higginbotham, who also said that the agreement eliminates financial incentives for the university to demand higher enrollment from the law school.

The bulk of new student tuition used to go to the university, he said. The law school will have a greater say in the future about how tuition will be divided if the student body grows, Higginbotham said.

At the end of July, popular law dean Phillip Closius used a widely circulated email to air internal tensions over the university's spending of law school revenues to subsidize other programs. He said in the letter to the law school community that he was asked to resign.

Closius stepped down the day after the university received an accreditation report from the American Bar Association that raised questions about the administration's rationale for siphoning off large percentages of law school proceeds. He claimed the university took about 45 percent of the money generated by tuition, fees and state subsidies in the 2010-2011 academic year.

Bogomolny disagreed with the numbers in Closius' July email and, in response, sent a letter to law faculty and staff that said during 2010 only 13.7 percent of law school revenues were retained by the university, "after allocating costs related to the law school's regular operation."

After Closius' resignation, a faculty committee was created to compose a budget understanding between the law school and the university, said Professor Michael I. Meyerson, the committee's chair. The panel solicited data and opinions from law schools at other public universities to determine how their funding is divided, he said.

Information from nine institutions, Meyerson said, led the committee to conclude that there is no standard method for dividing funds between a law school and its parent university.

"The committee found that the law school could probably use more funding," Bogomolny said.

Closius, still a member of the school's faculty, said he was gratified that his exit highlighted the funding issue and perhaps led to the budget increase.

"I am pleased that the university acknowledged the financial problem and worked with interim Dean Higginbotham and the law school committee to remedy it to the extent they did," he said in an email.

In his resignation letter, Closius also said he was troubled by steady cost increases for law students.

Students were told in the email Wednesday that the administration would "work to keep future law school tuition increases as small as possible" and that the budgets of other divisions of the university would not suffer as a result of the promised law budget increase.



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