BY CLINTON DICK
Undoubtedly most returning students, and perhaps eager 1L researchers who are not preoccupied with moving to Cambridge or reading the recommended book list the Law School sends out, noticed that their tuition for FY2004 was $31,250, an increase of 5.9% from the previous year.
In a memo sent after classes had ended and when most students were schmoozing with law firm associates, saving the world using less than $6,000 or forgoing another night of sleep during the Law Review competition, former Dean of the Law School Robert Clark explained the tuition increase and what he understood as “the more fiscally conservative environment resulting from the modest increase in Harvard’s endowment payout and the University’s forecast of tight financial circumstances in the coming years.”
“At least in the near term, income growth will be constrained and the School will depend on increases in tuition simply to fund our current programs and level of activity,” Clark said. “Most of our endowment income supports core activities such as professorships and library acquisitions, so shortfalls in such income must be replaced with unrestricted funds.”
Noting that this year’s increase was less than the 7.3% increase for the current year, Clark reassured students that “the School’s combined tuition and fees remain the lowest . . . of the eight private law schools to which we are frequently compared.” Furthermore, Clark continued, “student loan interest rates are at an historic low,” so borrowers should have less trouble paying back the 5.9% increase.
“I have tried to be fiscally prudent during my years as Dean,” Clark stated, noting that “the Law School is not currently facing the financial deficits, staff reductions, and salary cuts or freezes being experienced within some of the other schools at Harvard, as well as at numerous other law schools.”
The former dean cited a “rainy day” fund that currently allows the Law School to continue its switch to smaller 1L sections, enhance FYL, carry on the LIPP and summer public interest funding, and continue to hire Visiting Professors.
While endowment income may have moderated some in the past year, it still accounts for 32.7% of all income in FY2004, up from 17.4% in FY1992. As a result, Clark stated, “we were able to increase the percentage of total expenditures available to improve facilities and add new buildings, and to boost scholarships as well as student services.”
Dean Clark, who was successful during his tenure in raising over $180 million for the Law School, said the slow growth in endowment income necessitated the tuition increase. Dean Clark acknowledged that the new capital campaign to raise $400 million “will benefit the operating budget, either directly or indirectly, and will allow Dean Elena Kagan to launch more of the initiatives the faculty identified in the Strategic Plan two years ago,” but avoided mentioning how such money would or should impact tuition increases in the future. Given that his time as HLS Dean was almost over when he wrote the memo, perhaps Clark gladly left such speculating responsibilities to his replacement.