Vermont, Seton Hall take first public moves to reduce faculty size

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Law schools across the nation are grappling with lower enrollments, and some are now publicly cutting the size of their faculty in order to make ends meet. Both Vermont Law School and Seton Hall University have recently announced potential cutbacks.

Eight professors at Vermont Law School voluntarily moved from full-time positions to part-time positions this past spring. The private stand-alone law school eliminated another two or three positions completely after professors left the law school for personal reasons.

“Vermont Law School has taken a series of innovative steps to ensure our students continue to receive an excellent academic experience,” the school said in a statement. “In addition we’ve adjusted the size of our full-time faculty through a voluntary restructuring of their working relationships that enables our students to continue to benefit from their knowledge and expertise.”

The school’s innovative steps include a two-year accelerated J.D. program and a new master’s degree in energy law and regulation. Both are designed to make the school more attractive to J.D. and other students.

Vermont also trimmed its staff this past winter by cutting 12 staff positions. The school eliminated 10 of the 12 staff positions through voluntary buy-outs, while the other two were involuntary. Despite the decrease in faculty and staff, the law school still offers a 13:1 student to faculty ratio.

Seton Hall University School of Law recently announced the possibility of eliminating all junior faculty members — seven in all — after the 2013-2014 academic year. The faculty also approved a ten percent reduction in their salaries.

“Because of the dramatic drop in interest in legal education, all schools must make decisions about the size and quality of enrollment,” the school said in a statement. “We will stand for quality and that will necessitate an adjustment of our costs going forward. With the University’s support, the faculty, administration and I are working together to make those adjustments. The faculty has already made a significant contribution toward continuing excellence by giving back 10 percent of total compensation.”

Seton Hall is also reviewing how it can bring in additional revenue through new programs.

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