TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, February 2, 2017

After 58% Enrollment Decline And 46% Faculty Reduction Through Voluntary Buyouts, Seton Hall Law School Adjusts To 'New Normal'

Seton Hall, As Law School Applications Fall Nationwide, Seton Hall Law Faces 'New Normal':

Kathleen Boozang, a veteran professor at Seton Hall School of Law in Newark, took over as dean of New Jersey's only private law school in 2015 just as the institution was making changes to compensate for declining applications.

Seton Hall Law still had more applications than available seats. But, school officials decided to shrink the incoming class size so the institution could keep up its standards and admit the same quality of students as before.

After 18 months on the job, Boozang told NJ Advance Media that Seton Hall Law is bouncing back with new programs and a renewed mission.

The entire law school field has been struggling. Seton Hall Law's applications dropped from 3,666 in 2009 to 1,609 last year. How is the school doing?

We're doing well. But, you're exactly right. Applications have declined nationally 40 to 45 percent since 2008 and I think a little bit more than that in the New York metropolitan area.

So, while every law school dean is hoping that things will improve as soon as possible, I don't think I'm counting on the market to ever go back to its heyday. The legal market is changing. It's being impacted by technology and the global economy. But there are also new opportunities as well that Seton Hall Law is trying to take advantage of.

Are you treating this as the new normal? Will the number of people who want to be lawyers — or pay your $52,022 annual tuition — ever be as high as it was in the past?

We are treating it as the new normal, though we expect there will be a little more expansion than where we are now. So, we've developed a 5-year budget model. We've really based all of our plans on three key decisions:

First, to become a smaller institution.

Second, unlike many law schools, we are maintaining our admissions criteria. The university has supported us in putting quality first because we want to make sure we are graduating students who would pass the bar and gain employment.

The third thing is we're focused on strategic investment to increase our revenue and programmatic offerings - including our Master of Science in Jurisprudence program for non-lawyers.

Have you had to lay off or reduce the size of your faculty?

It's important to tell both parts of the story, which is contracting and reinvesting. Yes, the university funded a retirement package for our faculty. Under my deanship, we had eight people who took that package. And we had a few a year for the years prior to that. It's been a fair number.  [Seton Hall reduced its full-time faculty from 59 in 2010 to 32 in 2016.]

So, even while we did have a number of faculty who retired, we are still in the market this year for two hires in new positions. Yes, we have contracted, but we are still strategically investing.

Here are Seton Hall's admission data for the past seven years from Law School Transparency:

Seton Hall

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Uh oh, looks like the Seton Hall Law Dean believes that there is structural change in the legal profession.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Feb 2, 2017 7:27:30 AM

In what world is "maintaining our admissions criteria" dropping 3 pts on the LSAT (from 159 to 156 at the median)? Unless of course our admissions criteria is "admitting anything with a pulse and a statutory entitlement to federal loan dollars."

Posted by: TS | Feb 2, 2017 1:30:28 PM