Record $10M Gift for Chicago Law: A Rankings Boost Next?

By Laura Strachan, Esq. on September 10, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

How do law schools compete with the heavy hitters like Harvard and Yale? Oh yes, they get wealthy alumni to donate millions of dollars to fund scholarships which lure top prospects, and hopefully boost law school rankings. One University of Chicago Law School alum is testing this theory out first hand after donating a record $10 million to the University Chicago Law School, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Carlyle co-founder, and University of Chicago Law School class of '73, David Rubenstein graduated from law school debt free, and now sees his sizeable contribution as an opportunity to repay his debt. The 61 year-old Rubenstein is creating the David Rubenstein Scholars Program with his pocketbook-- a fund that will provide 60 students with full-tuition scholarships for three years of law school. The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of academic merit, and not financial need.

The private law school normally comes with a hefty $46,000 a year price tag. University of Chicago Law school dean Michael Schill notes the turn-off that the high price of tuition can have on potential students: "It's easy to lose students to other schools that can provide these scholarships. Now 10% of our enrolled class for the next three years will be getting tuition paid for, which will hopefully generate a virtuous cycle of even more scholarships."

One can only speculate as to whether the generous donation will ultimately translate into boosting law school ranking for Chicago Law down the road. Law school rankings (which the University of Chicago Law always places in the upper tier of) are largely based on school reputation among academics, and LSAT scores of incoming students. A school's placement can be a major factor in the decision process for a student with multiple acceptance letters from top schools. An academic-based scholarship approach may just be the ticket to the top, especially for a school with such high tuition. The University of Irvine School of Law, which offered free three-year tuition to its first 1L class as part of an application incentive, quickly became the most selective law school to apply to in its introductory year. We'll just have to wait until next year's polls to know how the approach worked for University of Chicago Law School.

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