Theological education is not the only sector of higher education facing the combined pressures of high costs and flat enrollment. Law schools have seen enrollment drop over the last decade, due in part to a difficult job market coupled with high tuition costs. Now, for the first time, a law school is shutting its doors.
In April 2017, Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, announced that the school will no longer admit new students. The law school has faced difficulties in recent years, including a low job placement rate -- in 2015, only 30 of the law school’s 141 graduates were employed full time in jobs requiring admission to the bar, and 2016 preliminary data shows a full-time employment rate of 38 graduates out of 128.
According to a statement by Alan Lund, chair of Whittier College’s board of trustees, the board had considered how to address the law school’s challenges since 2015. However, they have determined that the best option is to discontinue the program.
The decision to close has received pushback, with students protesting and some law faculty requesting a temporary block on the decision in court.
Although concrete closure plans have not been publicly announced, the school has been publishing transition updates on their website, including a list of FAQ’s for students. According to these updates, the school plans to work with students to complete their degrees, either by finishing out at Whittier or transferring to another school.
To learn more, you can read Inside Higher Ed’s coverage of the closure or Whittier’s updates.