Friday, July 10, 2015

Affordability and Sacrifice

The University of Illinois has a new law dean, Vikram Amar.  He understands the importance of affordability so much that he's making a most generous sacrifice.
[T]hose of us privileged to serve in our great law schools must be ever vigilant to keep these schools within the reach of all persons of ability, especially the younger generation’s gifted aspirants who come from modest backgrounds—the next generation’s Abe Lincolns* and Barack Obamas. That it one reason why I insisted, as a condition of my appointment, that my overall dean compensation be somewhat lower than the recent norm, both at Illinois and at other elite law schools.
As Business Insider points out, the previous dean made $326,651.  Amar allegedly agreed to a paltry $324,900 and declined a $25,000 summer stipend.  With an estimated 450-500 students, his sacrifice would result in a savings of around $50 on each student's annual tuition bill, which starts at $40k+ for in-state residents.  (Or $50 that goes straight into other expenses or school savings).

Neither of these articles points out the most significant factor in his sacrifice: cost of living.  According to the U. of California's wage database, Vikram Amar made $268,419 in total compensation at UC-Davis.  Using CNN's cost of living comparison tool, we learn that a comparable salary in Champaign-Urbana to making $270k in Sacramento would be around $238,000.

In other words, Amar demanded a pay cut to only be making about 35-40% more than his previous job when adjusted for cost of living.  Obviously, it's cheaply-bought publicity.  In the grand scheme of things, his reduction in pay won't do a damned thing.

That isn't to say his expressed intention is bad.  College and law school - particularly at a "public" school - should be affordable.  That an Illinois resident would have to pay $120k+ to study at the state's flagship is about as absurd as trying to pay back $120k working anywhere except the best firms in Chicago.

Problem is, it's patently insane to think a law dean making only $325k is a step towards a solution.  It's sort-of like when a morbidly obese person walks two blocks, eats only one bucket of greasy fried chicken for dinner, and claims they're on a weight loss plan.

The real problem here is that the University of Illinois offered this man so much that he felt the need to ask for a reduction.  According to the Daily Illini's Salary Guide, Illinois' College of Law has 19 employees who earn $200k or more, 52 total employees who earn $100k or more, and a whopping 99 total employees who earn above Champaign-Urbana's median household income of $46,000.  In the top two spots are the husband-wife tandem of Michael Moore and Heidi Hurd, who show a combined income of $611,497.00.  (Hurd, readers may recall, is the former dean who once called Paul Pless a "master-mind of numbers and a perfectly straight-forward guy in whom [she had] complete trust.")

That's a fat culture of hiring way too many people and seriously overpaying them, and it's not going to change with the law dean only making $325k.  If Dean Amar was serious, he'd lead by example and take far, far less, and he'd demand that people like Moore and Hurd follow his lead.  By accepting a $325k salary, he's tacitly endorsing the entire rotten pay structure regardless of what he says publicly.  That isn't admirable; quite the opposite.  The comparison shouldn't be to "the norm," but to what is "right."

Hopefully, Amar and his peers will take real steps to make law school affordable.  This really isn't one.

And what of his reasons for wanting affordability?   To say nothing of the ludicrous idea that Illinois is "elite," the idea that law school should especially be affordable for the Abraham Lincolns and Barack Obamas of the world is backwards and borderline delusional.  The Obamas and Lincolns of the world don't go to Illinois and often find their place regardless of finances or background.  The people who particularly need law school affordability are the run-of-the-mill blue-collar lawyers who didn't land BigLaw but keep the legal system afloat.  That, and the people who never got into the legal system because schools like Illinois have been pumping excess supply to enrich humble public servants.

Absolutely, law school should be affordable (not "more affordable."  "affordable").  But hollow, empty celebration is as foul as inaction.  That Dean Amar is conscious of this problem is a fair start.

That he finds it worthy of public mention to eat his metaphorical eight-scoop birthday sundae with only 99% of the toppings suggests we still have a long way to go to make this fatass industry healthy.

23 comments:

  1. The guy is just taking what he is given. It is a public school, why is the public paying this money. To ask the question...

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  2. What an virtuous and honorable man, huh?!?! The morbidly obese/glutton analogy is perfect. This bastard is apparently making $1,751 less than his cockroach predecessor. Even with COL increases, this is paltry.

    Congratulations on foregoing the second cherry on top of your eight scoop sundae, you filthy bastard. In a just world, he would be diagnosed with severe diabetes and have his legs amputated at the knee.

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    1. "Congratulations on foregoing the second cherry on top of your eight scoop sundae,"

      Priceless Nando. You are hilarious and true.

      Delete
  3. My alma mater and it is disgusting.

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    1. Are you Old Guy? I know he went to an "elite" school.

      Delete
    2. As you must also know, Old Guy does not regard Illinois as an élite school. Old Guy has often said that only 13–16 schools are even worthy of consideration—and Illinois is not among them. Illinois is a fourth-tier toilet.

      Delete
  4. Making that much in Champaign- that's enough to live like a king. However, if Champaign is still like it was when i went to school there 25 years ago, not so great.

    Champaign-Urbana is 100,000 people surrounded by hundreds of miles of corn and soybeans. It gets dull real fast.

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    Replies
    1. Now, now, c'mon. It's not so bad.

      You get bored you can always go really kick it up a notch by visiting Arcola, Rockome Gardens, etc.

      Party On, Dude.

      Delete
  5. Oh shit, we've got a DEAN WU on our hands! PR, PR, PR!!!

    Fuck the scammers. This "industry" is so depressed that even were a law school to PAY YOU to go - I don't mean 'free' tuition, I mean they fucking put your ass on salary - it STILL wouldn't be worth it in light of the HIGHLY NEGATIVE value of a JD in REAL industries.

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  6. It takes chutzpah to gloat about a "somewhat lower" salary (which represents a huge increase over his previous job) that is so outrageously high. The Univershitty of Illinois could easily find someone to perform that job with just as much aplomb for $50k per year. The claim that they have to pay that scamster a third of a million is self-serving shite.

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    1. I don't know about 50k, but certainly they could find someone who would do a great job for say 100k. These 300-600k salaries for deans (much less professors) are appalling, considering the outcomes for most graduates.

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    2. I agree that 325K is way too much for that scammer. However, it may be worth it sometimes to pay a dean fairly well if he/she stands up to the lazy, entitled professors. Like Penelope Andrews at Albany, she wasn't afraid of nobody, at least for a while, She deserved at least 200K for trying to clean up that mess.

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    3. Imagine if elementary school teachers made this kind of money; the public would be outraged, and what elementary school teachers do is harder and more important. I have worked as a pre-school teacher in a low-income area. We made peanuts, and we spent a good chunk of our salary on our students. These law school scammers disgust me. They don't know what the word "sacrifice" even means.

      Why isn't the public disgusted by the excesses of higher education, especially public institutions? Have we all been brainwashed?

      Delete
    4. There are thousands of JDs who could competently perform the role and would love to sniff a 50k salary.

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    5. If that job had been advertised at $50k, hundreds of people would have applied. Some would have done the job a damn sight better than this Amar scamster.

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    6. Amar's "somewhat lower" salary has absolutely no effect whatsoever on making his law school more affordable. It's a pathetic, self-congratulatory PR move. This smug scammer wants us to stand in awe of his altruism and his magnanimity. What a foul person. I hope someone has sent him a link to this page, and that he is reading these comments, and he realizes that he has been seen for what he truly is -- a shameless, greedy parasite who exploits the ignorance of young people.

      Delete
    7. It's so gratifying to see a rational person at 10:29 making the complete case against Mr. Amar. Such a magnificent statement of the truth. Thank you.

      Delete
  7. I urge everyone to listen to "Piggies" by The Beatles. Even though this song is approaching 50 years old, it still remains timeless.

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  8. Trying to help any prospective law students visiting this site...

    Illinois may look pretty good because 25% or so of its graduates get hired in Biglaw, mostly in Chicago. But I've read that the other 75% have serious problems getting any sort of legal job at all. Traditional backup jobs like ADA or PD are really hard to get these days, Midlaw basically doesn't exist for new graduates, and Illinois has very little presence in DC or in public interest jobs. The cost of tuition and the incredible stress of finding a job are far too great a cost for the crappy jobs that the overlooked 75% can sometimes find months or years after graduation.

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    1. Suppose that Illinois showed some social responsibility and cut its admitted class by 75 percent next year. Do you think that Amar would be willing to sacrifice by accepting a salary of $81,000, which would be 75% lower than his current salary?

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  9. How is this scheme legal? Hmm, the student may borrow only for qualified educational purposes, but the school may refund some portion in cash to be used for whatever? That seems distinctly not legal.

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  10. A simple proposal - law school professor salaries should be pitched in some relationship to the earnings of lawyers in the immediate vicinity of the law school. So start a junior prof at say the median, or even the 25% line for local 2-4 year associates, tenured profs at the median or 25% line for local junior partners, and so on. I mean, law professors like to make "I coulda' been a contender" so pay them what they would have been in contention for.

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  11. Lets be realistic, Tenure has real value - and lawyer, and any partner who has looked at the firm accounts knows how wonderful it is to have a reliable week-on-week, month-on-month pensionable salary that cannot vanish overnight.

    Now the mean income for lawyers in Chicago is $126,400 (BLS.) Why should an Illinois law professor earn more? He/She has job security, a pension, all the rest. Is He/She going to abandon academe for the mean earnings of a Chicago lawyer. Tenure is a reward in itself (and all the rest.) So use BLS data to set pay scales for law professors.

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