Giving to USD School of Law
This past year, USD School of Law celebrated its 60th anniversary. It was a time for looking back on the remarkable achievements of our law school and the many successes achieved by our alumni in the law school’s relatively short history. This year, we need to look forward and refocus our efforts on securing the legacy of this great law school for future generations of students.
As the 2015-16 academic year begins, there are indications that some of the worst challenges faced by legal education may finally be behind us. After four years of declining applications, our 2015 application pool increased by 20%. With this larger application pool, we were able to be more selective, improved our yield and recruited a 1L class that was larger, more diverse and academically stronger. Our efforts to improve retention have also been successful with fewer of our top students transferring to other law schools after their first year. These recruitment and retention results could never have been achieved without the success of the Dean’s Scholarship Initiative, which exceeded its goal again last year and raised more than $550,000 for student scholarships.
However, the future for law schools, including ours, still remains uncertain. Recruiting and retaining law students has become even more expensive; and making higher, multi-year scholarship commitments has become necessary to remain competitive. Our strategy to “right-size” the law school also continues to be a work in progress and our future financial planning will require further cost-cutting for the law school to remain operationally in the black. At the same time, we must find the resources to continue our efforts to improve and reform our curriculum, especially with the upcoming changes to the bar exam, the anticipated approval of California bar’s pre-admission practical skills training requirement and the growing demands for specialization in the legal marketplace.
This uncertain situation highlights the importance of your continued generosity. Increased scholarship funding remains our top fundraising priority. For the past three years, many of our top students have come to, and remained at USD because we have been able to compete successfully with other law schools by offering these students Alumni Honor Scholarships or Alumni Leadership Scholarships funded through the Dean’s Scholarship Initiative. We will need renewed alumni and donor support to continue to fund these scholarships and to ensure greater access to legal education for highly qualified and worthy students from all backgrounds.
I hope that all of you who have made the Dean’s Scholarship Initiative a success will continue to give generously to support student scholarships. For those of you who have the financial means, I am again asking you to consider funding an annual named scholarship with a gift of $5,000 or more. A named scholarship can honor or memorialize anyone designated by the donor and is awarded to a continuing student who is selected based on criteria established by the donor. As someone who has personally (along with my wife) funded an annual scholarship for the past three years, I have seen the impact these awards can have on students’ lives. These scholarships are great investments in the future of our law school.
In addition to funding scholarships, there are many other ways you can designate your gifts to have a direct and meaningful impact on our students. Among these, I want to highlight a few of our top funding priorities for this year:
- Supporting new curricular initiatives, including faculty-approved programs to improve our bar passage rate and incorporate practical skills training in the first-year curriculum;
- Expanding the services provided by our Veterans Clinic;
- Funding an experienced faculty director for our new Entrepreneurship Clinic, which is focused on providing legal services to student-founded, start-up technology companies;
- Expanding the externship opportunities available through our Semester in Washington, D.C. Externship Program and other local and regional programs;
- Sustaining the future of our revamped summer study abroad programs in Paris and London;
- Providing the additional seed funding needed for the establishment of the San Diego Center for Health Law, Biotechnology and Medical Ethics at the law school; and
- Enabling us to provide resources to our faculty to continue to do impactful scholarship, innovative teaching, important public service and public policy, individually and through our centers and institutes.
I have great confidence in, and remain enthusiastic about, the future of our law school. I am proud of what we have been able to achieve during the past four years thanks to your support and generosity, and I am looking forward to another successful year.
With my sincere thanks and best wishes,
Stephen C. Ferruolo
Dean and Professor of Law