University of La Verne cuts tuition by 35%, to no longer offer scholarships

No scholarships, no grants and no tuition discounts of any kind. That’s the new policy of the University of La Verne College of Law. The Southern California law school is the first of its kind to adopt a frozen and flat tuition model without discounts, or what they call the “True Tuition Model.” Rather than offering full tuition at $39,000 with discount options like grants and scholarships, the law school is now offering $25,000 tuition for full-time students effective for the 2014-15 academic year.

Gilbert Holmes, who became dean of the law school in 2013, hopes to re-envision the school’s legal education model. He said that while scholarships began as a way to support low-income students, they have widened the wealth gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students after graduation.

“The true tuition model resonates with the core values of the university,” Holmes. “It’s not just some flash in the pan ploy. It would be great if other schools sat down and figured out how to eliminate or stop perpetuating the wealth gap, and it might be through the true tuition model or other means.”

The law school examined data such as the average starting salary of a law school graduate, loan availability and other factors to determine a fair “True Tuition” price. And according to Holmes, “frankly, it’s a nice round number.” By forgoing discounts altogether, Holmes hopes to help close this gap in order to make legal education accessible to all and reducing the debt of students upon graduation.

“The students who score lower LSAT scores end up with more debt, therefore that limits their possibilities to make and save money which then increases the wealth gap,” Holmes said. “We don’t want to perpetuate that. I don think we’re going to be able to close the wealth gap, but we can’t continue it.”

The University of La Verne has struggled with enrollment since the American Bar Association revoked its provisional accreditation due to low bar passage rates in 2011. It regained provisional accreditation within a year, but it had only 49 students in the class that started in fall 2013.

“We are, undoubtedly, seeking to increase enrollment,” Holmes said. “But it’s not solely about driving numbers. It’s about enrolling more and more students from diverse backgrounds who embrace the values of social justice and equal opportunity, and who will not only be good law students but also upstanding guardians of society.”

The school is honoring existing scholarships for current students. Part-time tuition will be fixed at $19,600.