The Office of Admissions seeks public comment on assessing fees based on enrollment to equalize impact across schools and students. Length of public comment period: 30 days
Deadline: December 4, 2023, 11:59 p.m.
Comments should be submitted using the online Public Comment Form. The online form allows you to input your comments directly and can also be used to upload your comment letter and/or other attachments.
Annually, California Accredited Law Schools (CALS) pay fees to the State Bar for accreditation. One fee covers monitoring the school’s compliance, ensuring adherence to accreditation rules, and otherwise performing the responsibilities of an accrediting agency. This fee is submitted with the Annual Compliance Report, hence termed the Annual Report fee. Currently, it stands at $2,170, which is far below the cost of providing these services. There’s also fee paid for a formal inspection to verify the school’s compliance. That fee is paid with advance deposits of $4,400 each year for 5 years. Despite rising accreditation costs, these fees haven’t changed in five years.
Recently, the State Bar circulated for public comment increases to various admissions fees to cover the costs of the programs and services. The proposal included an increase in the set amount California Accredited Law Schools are assessed which is tied to the submission of their Periodic Compliance Report, and the advance payments made towards the cost of periodic inspections.
At its September 21, 2023, meeting, after consideration of public comment, the State Bar Board of Trustees determined that instead of a set Annual Report fee, a better approach might be assessing fees to the California Accredited Law Schools based on enrollment numbers. Such a tiered fee structure has been in place for the unaccredited law schools for several years. The Board looked at three different approaches to creating a tiered fee structure. However, responding to the fact that these fees were going to be passed on to law students, in addition to the other fee increases adopted, the Board directed that the proposed increases on the fees assessed to the CALS be adjusted downward.
The State Bar is seeking public comment on the following proposals:
Each proposal offers three alternative tiered fee structures based on student enrollment. Comments are sought on the preferred proposal and tier structure.
A diagram describing these methods and tiers can be found here.
For the inspection fee, creating a new tiered approach seems unwarranted, not enrollment size. The cost of inspections is based on the number of hours spent inspecting the school, conducting follow ups, compiling the inspection report, and performing similar tasks. A review of the last 10 inspections show minor variations in hours based on enrollment (using the same tier structures proposed for the Annual Report fee), with little rationale for the difference. Schools with enrollment between 100 and 299 (Tier B) had the lowest average number hours; with schools in Tier A (0-99 students) and Tier D (500+ students) having the highest average hours. The average cost of inspections, at the newly approved rate of $350/hour, would be $37,500, up from $29,500 under the prior annual rate. The prior State Bar proposal recommended increasing the advance payment to $8,000 per year for five years, totaling $40,000. As with the current fee structure, after the inspection there is a “true up” and if actual costs exceed the amount paid, the school must transmit the additional amount. Similarly, the State Bar would return any amount paid in excess of the actual costs. Public comment is sought on adjusting the advance fee to $7,500, keeping it at $8,000, or reducing it to $7,000 annually.
The full package of increases to the Admissions fees, alongside changes implemented to the administration of the bar exam, have bridged the gap between projected 2024 revenues and expenditures. More specifically, the increases proposed for the CALS and the unaccredited law schools stopped the State Bar’s subsidizing schools for accreditation work. Reducing CALS’ proposed fees will reintroduce subsidies, albeit smaller. Overall, 2023 revenue into the Admission Fund is poised to exceed projections by approximately $2 million, making this change absorbable.
Board of Trustees
January 1, 2024, 11:59 p.m.