Berkeley Law announces program to offset tuition, fees for Native American students

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Jonathan Hale/Staff
The UC Berkeley School of Law intends to implement a program that offsets the cost of attendance for qualifying Native American students, building upon the existing Native American Opportunity Plan.

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Starting this fall, the UC Berkeley School of Law, or Berkeley Law, will offset tuition and student service fees for qualifying Native American students.

The new Berkeley Law scholarship program builds upon the Native American Opportunity Plan, or NAOP, a university-wide initiative that fully covers tuition and student services fees for California graduate and undergraduate students who are enrolled in federally recognized Native American, American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, according to the university admissions website. 

“The new Berkeley Law program complements and builds upon this foundational support, adding an award to offset PDST (professional degree supplemental tuition) for qualifying students in our J.D. program,” said Berkeley Law Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Kristin Theis-Alvarez in an email.

According to Theis-Alvarez, professional degree supplemental tuition, or PDST, remains the largest portion of tuition and fees in the J.D. program at $45,000 per year starting fall 2022.

The requirements for applying to the Berkeley Law program are currently the same as the NAOP, Theis-Alvarez noted.

She added that Berkeley Law’s scholarship program first came about when administrators realized the NAOP fails to provide financial coverage for PDST.

“As soon as we learned about the NAOP guidance and rollout we were excited about the potential impact it could have system-wide and at Berkeley Law,” Theis-Alvarez said in the email. “Because PDST is almost four times as much as the portion of required fees that NAOP was covering, as long as PDST remained unaddressed a significant barrier would persist.”

After studying the final guidance issued by the UC Office of the President and consulting with several colleagues, Theis-Alvarez formally proposed a financial aid program to address PDST for students to Berkeley Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

Theis-Alvarez said she presented the rationale, projected costs and impact on the budget in her proposal.

“We agreed that in order to honor and fulfill the intention of the Native American Opportunity Plan as set forth by President Drake, the law school will also offset PDST for qualifying new and continuing students,” Theis-Alvarez said in the email.

According to Theis-Alvarez, the scholarship program is funded through the existing J.D. program’s financial aid budget, which also grants merit and need-based aid and funds organizations such as the Public Interest Scholars program, Center Scholars program, Berkeley Law Opportunity Scholarship and Binding Early Decision program awards.

Qualifying recipients may receive a unique combination of aid and awards from any of the institutions listed above, she noted.

Administrators hope to encourage prospective Native American law students through this scholarship program.

“There is both a material and a symbolic impact of this program, but both probably say about the same thing to prospective Native American law students: Attending law school is possible, and Berkeley Law welcomes you,” Theis-Alvarez said in the email.

Phoebe Chen is the lead race and diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @ph0ebechen.