Law School Enrollment Dropoff Causes Departmental Budget Cuts
Clair Finnegan, Tower Staff
April 14, 2013
Filed under News
Catholic University will cut operational expenditures by 20 percent under a proposal by the Provost, a move that is the result of a decline in revenue from law school enrollment.
Earlier this year, the Provost asked deans from the University to trim down their operational expenditures for the next fiscal year by 20 percent. This decision has come following a decline in revenue from decreasing law school enrollment – a challenge that is being experienced by universities nationwide.
As each department uses its operational budget differently, the cuts will have a varied effect on departments across the school. Some, who rely heavily on adjunct lecturers, will have to make vast changes to their course offerings, while others, who have few if any lecturers, will find other places to make the necessary cuts.
“The proposed budget cuts, which result from the sharp decline in law school enrollments, are fairly modest and manageable in the case of the Politics Department, largely because we have only one faculty member on leave this year compared to two faculty members on leave last year,” offered Philip Henderson, chair of the politics department.
Other departments across the University, however, have offered many courses by the same lecturers for years, making lecturers a large portion of their spending, and therefore the most practical place to make cuts. For example, the art department foresees having to reduce class offerings significantly in the coming school year.
“For our department, the cuts could have potentially painful consequences,” offered Nora Heimann, chair of the art department. “With only two full-time faculty, our department relies heavily on lecturers, many of whom have long-standing relationships with the University.”
In their aim to impact as few students as possible, the media studies department expects to cut one class, advanced journalism, said department chair Stephen McKenna. He also said that the media studies department already only has a few electives, all of which are popular.
While responses to the cuts are mixed, Heimann and several other department chairs said the University is actively striving to put the academic concerns of the students first.
“When at committee meetings, what’s at the top of people’s minds is ‘What’s best for the students?’” said Ernest Suarez, chair of the English department. “When it comes to academics, the school’s first priority is what serves the student body best.”
With the increasing cost of law school in the United States, universities across the nation have experienced a decline in law school enrollment. For many universities, including CUA, this decline means a significant decrease in revenues that the university as a whole depends on year-to-year.
“We are led to understand this is because of plummeting enrollment in the law school,” shared McKenna.
Between 140 and 200 new law students enroll each year and pay between $33,600 and $44,000 annually.
“The decline in law school enrollments is a nationwide problem that has had budget consequences at a very large number of universities. CUA, in my view, is handling the budget challenges quite skillfully,” suggested Henderson.
Long-term, Suarez sees this as an “adjustment period” where the University has to find revenue sources that differ from what it is used to having available.
Meanwhile, the cuts are causing several departments to find creative methods of continuing to offer as many classes as possible.
“This certainly does encourage us to share resources in the form of cross-listed courses,” suggested McKenna.
The law school is still profitable, there are just fewer revenues, said Victor Nakas, associate vice president for public affairs, in an official statement from the University.
“It’s simply the case that there isn’t as much revenue flowing in as there was with a larger enrollment,” said Nakas in the statement.
According to the statement, faced with the lower revenues, the University has decided to cut operational costs rather than raise tuition.