- The University of Illinois at Chicago Board of Trustees has approved a plan that will allow the institution to acquire a nearby private law school, creating the only public law school in the state, according to Inside Higher Education.
- The plan, revealed initially in November, calls for acquiring the 120-year-old John Marshall Law School in part to give the university a presence in legal training that it has lacked.
- John Marshall enrolled some 1,466 students in the 2012-2013 academic year, according to the American Bar Association, but enrollment dropped to 938 in 2016-2017. Applications also declined, but university officials said the school did effective and necessary downsizing and is on solid financial ground.
Some critics are concerned about the acquisition at a time when law schools have been losing enrollment, but university officials reported they had studied the plan for two years and were confident it was a good move. “What we discovered was the John Marshall Law School was hit by this downturn, as just about everybody was,” Susan Poser, UIC’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs told Inside Higher Education. She said the law school officials were “very smart in how they downsized,” and the law school has been operating with a surplus on its $40 million budget.
The American Bar Association reported in December that its accredited law schools showed a less than 1% decline in enrollment in 2016-2017, and that ABA officials believed that it might be the bottom of the downturn.
The Chicago Tribune has reported that some law schools are seeing the effects of what has been called the Trump Bump, an increase in enrollment because either students support the president’s policies or reject them and want to play a bigger role in aw. More students also have been taking the LSAT, some officials have reported.
In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, an official who went through the merger of a college last year offered six recommendations for consolidations. The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America has also reported that mergers are sometimes more expensive and difficult than colleges expect and take more time for gains to materialize.
There have been an increasing number of college mergers with a recent report suggesting consolidation should be considered by colleges, and a July report from the American Council of Trustees and Alumni showing that consolidation, particularly of resources among schools, could offer financial savings.