Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More on Vermont Law School's response to declining applications

The National Law Journal has some additional details on a story we reported here about VLS's decision to offer buy-outs to staff (and then faculty, if necessary) in the face of a significant decline in student applications.  The school will also expand its offerings of "certificate" degrees to help make-up the shortfall in revenue.  And while it also plans to increase the size of its LLM program in order to boost revenue, anecdotal evidence suggests it may not be worth the additional expense to students hoping to land a good job. To the contrary, at least one legal recruiter says an LLM may hurt a candidate's chances. Something to consider before piling your debt higher and deeper.

From the NLJ:

New Vermont Law School dean taking on $3.3M budget shortfall

Vermont is taking a two-pronged approach to the estimated 14 percent revenue decline next academic year. First, the school is looking to reduce costs through voluntarily staff buyouts, which could extend to faculty if there are not enough takers. Second, Vermont plans to increase the number of LL.M and certificate programs it offers in order to boost tuition revenue.

"Sooner or later, I think everyone will have to face what we're facing right now," said Mihaly in a November 26 interview. He noted that as a standalone law school, Vermont cannot rely on a larger university to plug budget shortfalls as a stop gap. "We're all facing the winds of sweeping change," he said.

The voluntary buyout offers went out in late November, and administrators hope that the buyouts will get them most of the way to their goal. Still, Mihaly predicted that additional cutting will be necessary.

"I think it's safe to say that some sort of voluntary buyout package will be offered to the faculty, and I think it will be early next year," Mihaly said. "We don't want to go there if we don't have to."

. . . .

The law school began the process of belt tightening last year, but is looking to make larger changes that will ensure sustainability in a future of smaller J.D. classes.

Part of that sustainability may well be a greater focus on online, LL.M, and certificate programs centered on the school's historically strong environmental law program.

The school began offering an online LL.M in environmental law in 2011, and that course has proven to be popular with students, Mihaly said. The school also plans to ramp up its two-year accelerated J.D. program. Administrators also hope that the addition of specialized advanced law programs will also attract more J.D. students who have specific career aspirations.

Continue reading here.



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