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Thomas Jefferson Law School

San Diego-Based Law School Faces Trouble

Thomas Jefferson School of Law is desperately trying to stay afloat amidst financial turmoil.

The Voice of San Diego reports that the San Diego-based law school has been in near-constant turmoil since taking on significant debt to build a $90 million facility.

Troubles Affecting The Law School

The law school has faced trouble paying off bonds for its building during a period when law school demand has dropped dramatically in recent years.

According to USA Today, law schools around the country have been facing dropping demand and trouble with declining graduation rates.

In 2015, U.S. law schools graduated nearly 10% fewer students than in 2010.

In 2017, the average number of applicants at the top 14 schools was 20.6% lower for the entering class of 2016 compared to the entering class of 2008, according to US News.

That pales in comparison to the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, which has struggled to repay $130 million in associated debt as interest in the law school has declined.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law has seen its graduates struggle to pass the bar exam and secure legal jobs. According to Voice of San Diego, the law school’s poor performance has, in turn, failed to attract new students.

“It has been of concern that the bar passage rate has not been where we want it to be,” Randy Grossman, chairman of Thomas Jefferson’s Board of Trustees, tells Voice of San Diego.

In 2011, the law school admitted 440 first-year students, according to Voice of San Diego. This fall, the law school only enrolled 43 first-year students. Additionally, the school recently announced that it wouldn’t be enrolling new first-year students for the Spring 2019 semester.

ABA Probation

On top of poor performing rates, the law school was also placed on probation by the ABA as it issued a warning that the school needed a “rapid overhaul” to maintain its national accreditation.

“The council determined that the law school’s present and anticipated financial resources, admissions practices, academic program, and bar passage outcomes have resulted in the law school now being in a position where only immediate and substantial action can bring about sufficient change to put the law school on a realistic path back to operating in full compliance within the time allowed by the standards and rules of procedure,” the decision states.

According to the ABA, the law school is non-compliant with the following standards:

  • Standards 202(a) and (d), which address program resources.
  • Standard 301(a), which deals with legal education program objectives.
  • Standards 501(a) and (b), which focus on admissions.

As a result of the ABA-probation, Thomas Jefferson School of Law attempted to drastically reduce the size of its student body and physical footprint in recent months, according to Voice of San Diego.

An Uphill Battle

Experts say Thomas Jefferson School of Law faces an uphill battle with its multiple issues.

According to Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, an overarching problem for the school is it “costs too much to attend and produces results that are not commensurate with its costs.”

To put that into consideration, tuition for full-time J.D. students this academic year is $49,500.

But the performance numbers don’t add up.

Thomas Jefferson’s 2017 graduates performed the worst among the state’s ABA-accredited schools when it comes to securing legal jobs that require a law license, according to Voice of San Diego.

Additionally, the number of Thomas Jefferson grads who take on debt is among the highest in the nation, according to US News. The average debt for 2016 Thomas Jefferson grads was $198,962 and a whopping 91% of its grads graduated with debt.

“You can’t attract enough students, and the students you do attract make your outcomes worse,” McEntee tells Voice of San Diego. “The ABA then comes down hard on you, and that makes it even tougher to attract students. It is a problem that feeds on itself.”

Sources: Voice of San Diego, USA Today, ABA, US News