July 26, 2012
Penn State Law School Addresses False Press Report on Plans
Penn State’s very public problems with the NCAA were added to with a minor dust-up over how it plans to manage its two law locations. One campus is in Carlisle, just outside of Harrisburg, and the other is in College Station, some 60-80 miles away. The Harrisburg Patriot News wrote a story on Tuesday that claimed plans to divert some students from the Carlisle Campus to College Station would put the University in breach of a contract with the state. Penn received grants from the state for improvements to the facilities in return for maintaining a law school presence there through June of 2025. The paper additionally reported that the move would threaten the school’s ABA accreditation.
The Law School quickly issued a denial that any plans would not necessarily put the school in breach of contract with the state, nor would it threaten accreditation. The paper assumed that each campus was accredited separately. The story has been corrected and a follow-up story conveys a “we screwed up big time” message.
But let’s take a moment to look at what’s going on at Penn State’s law school and the motivation behind any law school plan. From the Dean’s email to the reporter:
The law school is engaged in internal discussions about how best to respond to the national decline in J.D. degree applicants and to the increasingly fierce competition among the best law schools for the dwindling pool of especially talented J.D. applicants.
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Were the law school not to reduce the size of its J.D. population in response to the dramatic decline in J.D. applications nationally, the academic credentials of our incoming students would fall appreciably, our ability to find meaningful employment for all of our graduates would diminish, more law school graduates would graduate with high debt and no work, the reputation and stature of the law school would decline, and our best faculty and administrators would leave. This would disserve our students, our alumni, the law school, the University and Carlisle.
I wrote a short post last November about the school offering application waivers to students with better LSAT scores. Other commentators suggested that move was motivated by the negative publicity from the sexual abuse scandal. I guess it’s getting that bad for schools outside of the top 20 to find qualified applicants that won’t hurt their ranking numbers. [MG]