The Little Law School That Could

UMass DartmouthFledgling School Holds Strong In Enrollment Numbers

With all of the negative news surrounding the legal profession, this story needs to be featured. It turns out that not all law schools are struggling! This is great news. While schools around the country continue to see applicant and enrollment numbers free fall, things are ho-hum at the University of Massachusetts School of Law in Dartmouth.
The school doesn’t have that fancy American Bar Association accreditation yet (it received provisional accreditation in 2012 and will receive full accreditation in 2017), but the dean of the state’s only public law school says that not only is the school holding steady, it is still in a building phase.
Well, maybe. But not exactly. The Fall 2010 class had 127 enrolled students. The past three years have seen the enrolled number hang out around 75. However, the school has seen applicant numbers jump from 148 in 2011 to 650 this past year.
How? First, a ridiculously low tuition. In-state students currently pay $24,178 and out-of-state students pay $31,870. The national average is $41,985. What’s more, nearly half of full-time students receive some form of grant or scholarship. The school has adopted a financial basic: Do not live above your means. It keeps the classes small, it isn’t worried about razzle-dazzle, and and it gets quality but not “too-quality” professors. It is the upper-middle class working mother driving a Nissan Versa and taking her lunch to work every day of law schools.
Nevertheless, all of this good does not come without some setbacks and struggles. UMass currently has an attrition rate of 11% to 13%. Dean Mary Lu Bilek attributes those stats directly to their strengths—low tuition costs and relatively high acceptance rates. Some of those students think law school is a good idea and then decide it isn’t. But Bilek is willing to continue to take risks on those students and the school in general to keep tuition low.
Bilek says every school has to resize to hit the numbers that work best to sustain itself. UMass just happened to find the right size at the right time—at the beginning. She believes as tuition continues to increase nationally and UMass grows in reputation, the school will continue to improve. Sounds good.
Source: South Coast Times

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