I'm delighted to report that the King County Bar has continued its tradition of providing financial support to minority law students. This past June we awarded $68,000 each to the Seattle University School of Law and the University of Washington School of Law, for a total of $136,000. The funds come not from member dues, but from charitable donations generously made by lawyers and judges to the King County Bar Foundation. (Donations are gladly accepted at www.kcbf.org/donate.)
The process begins each spring, when the law schools transmit written reports to the King County Bar Association outlining their work to diversify their respective student bodies and faculties. Copies of this year's written reports, as well as those from past years, are available online at www.kcba.org/diversity. The reports are reviewed by KCBA's Diversity Committee, chaired by Superior Court Judge Patrick Oishi. After review of the written reports, the Committee meets in person with the law schools' deans - currently Annette Clark at Seattle U. and Kellye Testy at the UW - to ask questions and engage in a candid dialogue about each school's challenges and opportunities.
After the interviews, the committee meets without the deans to make a recommendation to the King County Bar Foundation about how to divide the total available funds between the schools. For the past several years, the Committee has recommended, and KCBF has approved, a 50-50 split of available scholarship funds.
Each school uses its own criteria to select which minority law students receive funding from the King County Bar, and uses KCBF funding as part of a total financial aid package offered to its students. Approximately 30 students at each school, or 60 total, have KCBF scholarship funds included as part of their packages each year; the KCBF portion averages slightly more than $2,000 of the amount per student.
While our support is greatly valued by the universities, it helps with only a small portion of a student's expenses. At the University of Washington, annual tuition for Washington residents is $31,983 per year. At Seattle University, that amount is $40,486 per year. In addition, both schools estimate that it costs from $18,000 to $21,000 to live on campus. The result: $150,000 to $184,000 for three years of law school.
Despite this very high cost, both schools are seeing tremendous successes in their work attracting diverse student applicants. Between 26 to 28 percent of admitted applicants at both schools are minorities. Final enrolled numbers show that 28 percent of the new 2013 students at UW were minorities and 37 percent of the new 2013 class at SU were minorities. You can see details on those figures in the chart accompanying this column.
To find prospective students of color, both schools have significant outreach programs. The University of Washington explains in its written report to KCBA that it attends programs such as "the Washington State Minority and Justice Commission's Tri-Cities Youth and Justice Forum, the College Success Foundation education fair, and the Upward Bound program through the UW's Office of Minority Affairs." Among Seattle University's special efforts reviewed in its written report are "partnerships with Western Washington University, Central Washington University-Des Moines, and Seattle Central Community College to facilitate a continuing relationship with students of color and economically disadvantaged students who are interested in law school."
Both institutions have nationally recognized faculty and leadership with diverse backgrounds. At UW, 30 percent of the full-time faculty are minorities; at SU the number is 35 percent. Many of the senior leadership at both schools are also minorities and well known in the local legal community, including deans Michelle Gonzalez, Greg Hicks and Michele Storms from UW, and deans Carol Cochran, Donna Deming and Diana Singleton at SU.
The King County Bar is honored to partner with both institutions as they work to educate the next generation of our local bar and bench. We are committed to providing continued financial and programmatic support to these outstanding members of the legal academy located in our own county.
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA's executive director. He can be reached by email (AndrewP@kcba.org) or phone (206-267-7061).