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

Monday, May 8, 2017

Purdue Is No Longer The Only Big Ten University Without A Law School

Purdue ConcordNational Law Journal, Purdue Buys Kaplan’s Online-Only JD Program in Education Milestone:

Concord Law School is poised to become the first fully online Juris Doctor program at a public university.

Purdue University, a public institution in Indiana, on April 27 announced plans to purchase Kaplan University — a national consortium of online and brick-and-mortar degree programs that includes Concord Law School, the nation’s oldest online law school. ...

The move is expected to add credibility to Concord’s program, especially should it be renamed to reflect Purdue’s ownership. It also could be a boost to the small industry of online law programs, which like traditional law schools, has suffered waning interest in recent years. ...

Concord, like many ABA-accredited law schools, has faced enrollment challenges since the recession. The school enrolled approximately 1,200 students in 2008, but currently has about 600. ...

The Kaplan University acquisition allows Purdue to quickly expand into the growing online education market, where it has fallen behind other higher education institutions that launched online programs years ago. Kaplan University has 32,000 students, about 3,000 employees and 15 physical locations nationwide, although the majority of its programs are offered online. Purdue University does not have a traditional, ABA-accredited law school within its system. ...

Fully online J.D. programs are currently ineligible for ABA accreditation, since its rules mandate that no more than 15 of a student’s 90 required credits are delivered through distance education. However, Mitchell Hamline School of Law obtained special permission from the ABA in 2015 to offer a hybrid online and on-campus program, and Syracuse University College of Law last year announced plans to follow suit.

California is currently the only state that allows graduates of unaccredited, online law schools to sit for the bar exam upon completing their degrees, and bar passage remains a challenge for alumni of Concord and similar programs. Just 12.5 percent of online law graduates passed the July 2016 bar, according to the State Bar of California. Concord fared slightly better, with an overall passage rate of 16 percent.

In order to qualify for the California bar, students in nonaccredited law schools must first pass the state’s First-Year Law Students’ Examination, which is also known as the “Baby Bar.” The one-day exam is designed to measure knowledge base and analytical and writing skills. There, too, students have struggled. Just 26 and 33 percent of online students passed the baby bar in June and October of 2016, respectively.

The other thirteen Big 10 universities with law schools range in rank from Michigan (8) and Northwestern (10) to Penn State (65, 82) and Michigan State (96).  Other law schools that have affiliated with or been acquired by higher ranked universities have seen dramatic increases in their U.S. News ranking (e.g., two other Big Ten universities (Detroit-Michigan State, Dickinson-Penn State) as well as Texas Wesleyan-Texas Tech).

Inside Higher Ed, Purdue Faculty Questions Kaplan Deal:

Faculty members at Purdue University took a strong stance Thursday against last week's unorthodox acquisition of Kaplan University, passing a University Senate resolution calling the deal a violation of common-sense educational practice and respect for Purdue faculty.

The resolution calls on Purdue President Mitch Daniels and the university’s Board of Trustees to rescind any decisions possible about the online-heavy university Purdue is acquiring from Kaplan. It also calls on Purdue leaders to include faculty members in all decisions made going forward about the soon-to-be-acquired university. ...

Faculty members have said they were not informed that the deal was taking place until an hour before it was announced. Being left out of such a major decision involving academic programs was the key point in the resolution the University Senate took up Thursday, which said the Kaplan acquisition violates the central tenets of faculty governance and control over curriculum.

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Given market conditions I inferred from the headline that a Big Ten school had just decided to drop a law school. Should have known better, of course.

Posted by: Mike Petrik | May 8, 2017 12:54:21 PM

It probably should be noted that Barry Currier, the former dean of Concord Law School, is the current head of the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, which is the part of the ABA that deals with law school accreditation.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 8, 2017 3:02:43 PM