Law schools seek GRAD Act measures

The Louisiana Board of Regents next month could change the GRAD Act requirements for the state’s two public law schools — a move that could make it easier for the schools to increase tuition.

The Granting Resources and Autonomy for Resources for Diplomas Act, which the state Legislature passed in 2010, gives colleges and universities the ability to raise tuition if they met certain performance measures.

The LSU Law Center and Southern University Law Center currently rely on four measures, while other schools rely on the average of six.

The Board of Regents on Wednesday said it would consider at the September meeting additional measures for the law schools.

“The expectation is that they will each add one (new measure),” said LeAnn Detillier, the Board of Regents’ assistant commissioner for Program Administration. “It’s in their best interest.”

During GRAD Act reviews this summer, both law schools saw decreases in performance, which officials attributed to changes in the bar exam.

Southern University’s law school didn’t meet the GRAD Act requirements and wasn’t able to increase tuition, despite a push from Law Center Chancellor Freddie Pitcher Jr., who called the bar exam changes “the Achilles’ heel here.”

He argued that if the law schools had more measures, then the averages would be less affected by one lower score.

Detillier said that state-level staff has been working with the law schools and the American Bar Association to develop additional criteria that can be included.

Potential new measures include the total number of credit hours earned in externships and live client clinical courses, participation in advocacy skills development programs and competition and hours students devote to pro bono services.

Regents member Ed Markle, a New Orleans lawyer, said he believes those measures would provide some practical elements to law education.

“It’s important to train them to be lawyers,” he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter @elizabethcrisp. For more coverage of the Louisiana Legislature, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog .