Many graduating law students seek work at major firms for that first job, feeling pressure to earn big salaries at the start of their careers to repay staggering law school debt.
But at George Mason University, a $30 million gift to the law school will create three new scholarship programs that will offer substantial freedom from debt and allow graduates the opportunity to pursue their dreams of making a difference by practicing in areas of their choice.
The scholarships “will open up all kinds of opportunities for students in all kinds of legal practice areas,” said Alison Price, associate dean for admissions and enrollment management at Mason Law. “They open opportunities for public service, for think tank work, for trade associations. (Students) are not constrained to big-firm salary jobs to pay for the cost of their education.”
The gift, the largest in George Mason history, includes a $20 million anonymous donation and $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation. The substantial scholarships to be awarded to several students each year will provide significant incentive for top-level prospective students to choose Mason and continue the enhancement of education at Mason Law, already one of the nation’s top 50 law schools, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Antonin Scalia Scholarship, named after the late Supreme Court Justice, will be awarded based on excellent academic credentials.
The A. Linwood Holton, Jr., Leadership Scholarship, named in honor of the former Virginia governor, will go to students who have overcome barriers to academic success and demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities or have helped others overcome discrimination.
The F.A. Hayek Law, Legislation, and Liberty Scholarship, named for the 1974 Nobel Prize winner in economics, will be awarded to students interested in studying the application of economic principles to the law.
With permission from the donor’s family, the law school also will be renamed the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, in honor of the late Supreme Court justice and longtime Northern Virginia resident. The name change would be effective July 1, pending approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
“This allows us to compete with other law schools for top-quality students,” Price said of the scholarships. “This allows us to get in the game.”
There also should be a multiplier effect, she said. As more students choose Mason Law, more elite faculty will follow, raising the value of a Mason Law degree.
“Attracting high-caliber students will raise the profile of the school and thereby raise the value of the degree to everyone that graduated from George Mason’s law school,” Price said.