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Closius offers UB a financial plan

At the suggestion of his successor, former University of Baltimore School of Law Dean Phillip J. Closius has proposed a way to resolve the financial issues between the law school and university that led to his resignation last month.

Closius would like the law school, not the university, to make any recommendation about a tuition increase to the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents, which has final authority over tuition rates for its member universities. Money from any tuition increase would then go directly into the school’s budget — over which it would have exclusive control.

Closius’ nine-point plan was created at the urging of Interim Dean F. Michael Higginbotham, according to an email Closius sent to the law school community Thursday. Closius described his proposal as what he “envisioned as essential” to a multiyear agreement between the university and the law school.

“I applaud Dean Higginbotham’s efforts in this regard, but I hope that an agreement acceptable to the dean and the law faculty can be finalized by mid-September before recruiting for next year’s class begins and voting starts for U.S. News rankings,” he wrote.

Closius declined to comment when reached Friday afternoon.

Closius created an eight-year agreement that would increase the law school’s base budget by $1.6 million for each of the next three fiscal years.

The money added to the budget “will allow the law school to keep its tuition increases at a modest or negligible rate for the [eight-year] term of this agreement,” he wrote.

Closius also would ensure “direct or indirect payment of any loan or coast overage” related to the new law school building would not be passed on to law students or the law school. The new building will have “significant” maintenance costs, he wrote, and any excess costs should be the responsibility of the university.

The law school’s budget should be cut proportionally with any state cut in university funding, but not to “satisfy any university reallocation or any other non-state mandated cut,” Closius wrote.

Higginbotham could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

In a statement, university President Robert L. Bogomolny said he is willing to discuss long-term budget planning for the law school and has proposed a meeting with Higginbotham, the law school’s chief financial officer, a faculty representative and a neutral, third-party to clarify any questions related to the law school budget.

“I welcome the opportunity to discuss issues related to the law school budget with the UB School of Law community,” Bogomolny wrote.

Separately, Closius also said in his email he polled other law school deans — at the request of UB law faculty — about the percentage of their schools’ revenue that goes to their universities.

Closius has said that UB keeps about 45 percent of the revenue generated by the law school’s tuition, fees and state subsidies. Bogomolny has acknowledged the university retained 42 percent of the law school’s revenue in fiscal 2010 but that it ultimately kept only 13.7 percent after “allocating costs related to the law school’s regular operation.”

Ten law school deans gave Closius their percentage, which ranged from 5 percent to 29 percent, according to Closius’ email. Six deans did not give a percentage but said 25 percent was standard and “that our percentage … was excessive or higher than any one of which they were aware,” he wrote.