Lansing State Journal, Where Did All the Cooley Students Go?:
Law school enrollment fell by 25% nationwide between 2010 and 2016. Cooley’s enrollment fell more than 60%, dropping from a peak of 3,931 students in 2010 to fewer than 1,300 last year, according to data Cooley submitted to the American Bar Association.
At its peak in 2010, Cooley brought in more than $123 million. By 2014, the most recent year for which tax records are available, revenue had plummeted to $63 million. ... Cooley responded by laying off more than half [60%] of its full-time faculty and closing its Ann Arbor campus.
Cooley’s freefall came with consequences for downtown. Several watering holes frequented by law school students dried up. Landlords looked to young professionals to fill the gaps left by fewer law school students downtown. Washington Square hasn’t recovered. ...
Cooley President Don LeDuc declined multiple requests to be interviewed for this story. Cooley declined to participate in the story or provide data they submit to the American Bar Association. ...
Cooley is one of the least selective law schools in the country. More than 85% of those who applied last year received an offer. Many are students most other law schools would reject.
And it was particularly hurt by the heightened competition for students, said Derek Muller, a professor at the Pepperdine School of Law. “It ends up leaving Cooley in a game of musical chairs without a seat,” he said.
It didn’t help that, in 2012, the American Bar Association began requiring schools to report employment figures for their recent graduates with greater precision. Those figures made clear, for instance, that just 38% of the students who graduated from Cooley in 2011 found full-time, long-term work within nine months of graduation. The numbers for 2015 graduates were worse, only 27%.
“We’re not going to see the heyday from 2009, at least in the next decade,” Muller said. “Schools have to adjust to that.”
Cooley, to some extent, has adjusted. It cut dozens of full-time faculty members. It raised tuition and fees for full-time students from $34,340 in 2011 to $50,790 last year. And LeDuc took a pay cut. His compensation, which topped out at $675,000 in 2012, had dropped to $537,000 in 2014, according to IRS documents.
Cooley also began admitting students who might not have made the cut a few years prior. Cooley's leaders have long said their aim was to admit everyone who might possibly succeed in law school. But in 2011, the median LSAT score for Cooley's entering class was 146. Last year, it was 141. That score would be in the bottom 16% of everyone who took the LSAT in 2015.
Which hasn't help Cooley's bar passage rate, which dropped when Michigan made its exam harder five years ago and hasn't rebounded. In 2015, fewer than 60% of the Cooley graduates who took the Michigan bar exam for the first time passed, a full 12 percentage points behind the rest of the state.
That could mean problems down the road. The American Bar Association has been mulling the adoption of stricter standards for accreditation, requiring a 75% pass rate within two years of graduating.
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