Is La Verne the next law school to go?

Even though some law schools are rebounding from the legal education crisis, some are not. Add the University of La Verne College of Law in Ontario, Calif., to the list that are not.

It could close.

While no decision has been made, that’s one possibility that the university’s Board of Trustees is currently considering.

“The board is looking at all options. Those options include continuation of the college,” university spokesman Rod Leveque told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin recently.

If it were to shutter, it would be the sixth law school to do so since law school enrollment plummeted following the Great Recession. Recently, enrollment has increased slightly, but not all law schools have enjoyed spikes.

La Verne has struggled. At one point, during a four-year period, enrollment fell at the Southern California school fell by 70%.  Not only was it hurt by the economy, it lost ABA provincial accreditation in 2011, an action that always scares off students. That accreditation was restored within a year and full accreditation came in 2016.

The school looked to rebound by offering a unique pricing method, called “True Tuition” in 2014. The school did away with grants, offering all students the same price. Normally, schools offer discounts to attract better candidates. That can impact lower-performing students, though.

“The students who score lower LSAT scores end up with more debt, therefore that limits their possibilities to make ad save money which then increases the wealth gap,” former Dean Gilbert Holmes told the National Jurist at the time. “We don’t want to perpetuate that. I don think we’re going to be able to close the wealth gap, but we can’t continue it.”

The pricing model continues, but student academic credentials still lag. The median LSAT for first year students in 2018 was 149, which Law School Transparency, a legal education watchdog organization, says puts students at a high risk of not passing the bar.

Of late, the school has struggled with bar passage. In 2018, just 31% of first-time test taker passed the bar, compared to the state average of 60%.

The ABA now requires schools to reach a 75% pass rate for grads who sit for the bar within two years. La Verne’s 2016 rate is 74.4 percent, just under the threshold.

An ad-hoc committee of nine faculty members and the school’s administration will investigate the school’s finances, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin report.

The Board of Trustees meets again on November 18, a meeting that could decide the future of the school and its students, which number 285. A so-called “teach out” plan would ensue, meaning the students would graduate from an ABA-accredited school, but would enter the legal field as their law school folds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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