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Hastings College of Law ‘Fixes’ Things by Reducing Students

Dean Frank Wu of the University Of California Hastings College Of Law stands out in leading the way to pull students out of the mess by reducing the number of students. Wu says, “The critics of legal education are right … there are too many law schools and too many law students, and we’re going to fix that.”

According to Wu, the Hastings College Of Law could easily fill 425 seats, which is the expected size of this year’s incoming class, but, he says, “to do so would be irresponsible.” The Hastings College of Law has planned to reduce student count by almost 20 percent from this year.

The reduction in the number of students would cost the college about $2.1 million in tuition revenue, and foreseeing the shortage it eliminated roughly 23 full-time positions mostly from the budget office and library staff. The college did not eliminate faculty positions and in fact is thinking of adding new faculty. According to the Dean, Hastings is in “robust financial condition right now.” The school has also implemented a 5% pay raise for all non-faculty employees.

In stark contrast to those schools which are literally begging for students or offering to waive different kinds of fees, the Hastings College Of Law is charting a truly progressive course. The students would benefit most from these steps. Frank Wu told the media in a telephone interview, “As a smaller school, we will have better metrics. Students will have a better experience, and obviously there will be better employment outcomes.”

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To actually start reducing the class size, Hastings had formed a Strategic Plan Committee last year. The committee’s findings were placed to the trustees in September. While reactions both from the student and worker committee has been fixed, and some have been outright critical, Wu is not concerned.

“We’re a stand-alone, independent law school. There is no central administration taxing me,” Wu told the media. A decade ago, public money constituted about 50% of the school’s revenue. Today, the school uses public money to complement only 10% of its revenue.

Wu conveyed his thoughts on the issue quite strongly. “I’ll say what most law deans won’t: Legal education is in crisis … We’re at a crossroads, and unless we collectively reboot this thing, we’re in real trouble. Every law school should be thinking about this” said Wu.

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