Whittier Law School in Southern California will be closing its doors for good this spring, marking the first-ever accredited law school to shut down.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the downfall of Whittier signifies an important challenge facing law schools across the country: low student enrollment.
“A number of law schools are struggling with exactly the same problems,” said Brian Tamanaha, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis and author of the 2012 book Failing Law Schools. “Given the substantive and enduring decline in applications to law schools, the surprise is that it took so long for one to close.”
The news of Whittier closing its doors shocked many students and faculty.
“We were completely caught off guard; it was almost like an ambush,” Kristopher Escobedo, a second-year law student and incoming student body president, tells the Los Angeles Times.
Overall, applications to law schools are down 50% since 2005, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Antonia Reyes is a second-year law student at Whittier. Reyes tells the Los Angeles Times that the news of Whittier Law’s closing bring feelings of abandonment and anxiety—especially since she is $160,000 in debt for her law school education.
“We are all worried about our degrees,” Reyes tells the Los Angeles Times. “Yes, we will finish our coursework, yes we’ll take the bar, but what’s the value of our degrees if we don’t have a law school to refer to?”