As many of you know, I have just completed my rehabilitation from open-heart surgery to replace a defective valve in my heart. The surgery went well, and I am feeling better than I have in several years – except for soreness in my chest where the incision was made.
I return to a Law Center that is in great shape, but faces the same economic upheavals that affected all of us personally and every institution of higher education. As has been true throughout the country among all publicly-supported law schools, a potential shrinking of state support and losses in endowment funds has led to a tuition increase. We are lucky that, with the support of more than ten percent of alums who contributed to the Law Center in the past year, we have held the increases down, at least in relative terms. (But the numbers remain high for people like me who remember the days when the state heavily subsidized legal education. But today, we are primarily tuition and private-gift supported). Our new tuition for Texas residents is $21,030, which is nearly 30% below UT Austin and almost 50% below Baylor and Southern Methodist University.
While we remain a relative bargain, scholarships and other financial support for our students have never been more important. A start toward increasing scholarship support was made with the creation of three Prestige Scholarships this summer, each of which provides full tuition support for one highly qualified (and highly recruited) student for three years. We owe Don Riddle for organizing two of these and the Andrews Kurth law firm for organizing the third. Importantly, in addition to financial support, each of the scholarships provides for the student to interact with and be mentored by the lawyers who created the scholarship. We hope to develop more of these Prestige Scholarships for next year’s class.
I will have more to say about the entering class in an upcoming Dean’s Note, but the early signs are that it will likely be the best in our history. And as our recent graduates entered a difficult job market, I am proud to report that the Law Center invested more than $300,000 to help subsidize public interest fellowships for students pursuing public interest jobs.
And the Law Center’s excellence is also continuing to be recognized. Alumna Meredith Atwell Baker ’95 was recently confirmed as a member of the five-person Federal Communications Commission. One of our faculty, Marcilynn Burke, has accepted the position of Deputy Director, Policy and Programs of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. And I recently learned that I was named to the Best Lawyers in America list in the fields of Intellectual Property and Information Technology law, an honor which is voted on by lawyers throughout the country.
I truly look forward to working with you all and meeting the challenges that the new economy and the new year will bring. FYI, our Fall Semester begins on Monday, Aug. 24.