October 3, 2010

Law School nets $10 million donation

University trustee David Rubenstein (JD ’73) donated $10 million to the Law School this September to fund 60 full scholarships over the next three years.

The gift, the largest by an individual to the Law School, will cover the tuition of twenty students in the classes of 2014–2016. Each class has approximately 200 students.

Rubenstein announced the gift after pledging to give away half his net worth, some $2.5 billion according to the Wall Street Journal. After attending the Law School on a full scholarship, Rubenstein founded the Carlyle Group, a large private equity firm.

The Law School currently offers need-based financial aid packages that can include full tuition, but most often come in the form of loans. The few merit-based scholarships the school offers only partially pay for tuition.

Seeking an advantage over top schools that can tap into vast resources for need-based scholarships, Law School Dean Michael Schill saw the need for a scholarship fund to draw talented applicants to Chicago. “Our peer schools devote a more substantial amount to financial aid because our endowment is smaller and we are a smaller school,” he said.

Shill said Rubenstein’s gift is remarkable not just for its size but for how few strings are attached. “David [Rubenstein] wanted to make a gift for what the Dean felt like was the highest priority.”

The Rubenstein donation will not go into an endowment, which means recipients will deplete the fund by 2016. Schill hopes Rubenstein’s gift will generate “a virtuous cycle,” encouraging more large donations. “I’ve been in conversations with lots of donors. I predict in the not too distant future the announcement of substantial gifts,” he said.

Recipients will not only benefit during their time at the Law school: Being free of the debt incurred by substantial loans, graduates have increased financial flexibility and may be able to accept positions outside of a few high-paying law firms.

Schill said the effects of the donation will impact every student at the school, not just the ones who receive funds. “It’s an associative good having really smart students at the school. Part of what makes a university great is created by its diverse community of students,” he said.