Vermont Digger reports that in the wake of an expected 30% reduction in its entering class (from 200 to 140) in the past two years, Vermont Law School has eliminated 25% of its full-time faculty positions:
Vermont Law School has made [a number of cost-cutting moves] in the past six months. The school is grappling with a trend that’s afflicting law schools almost across the board -- fewer applicants are applying due to dwindling job prospects and the specter of student debt.
Vermont Law School is particularly vulnerable to financial backlash of that trend because it lacks the shield of a “mothership.” Most law schools are housed within universities, which have been able to absorb their losses.
Class size at VLS dropped from 200 to 170 in 2012, and VLS President Marc Mihaly expects it to take another 30-student plunge this year. The school is still accepting applications, and school officials say they won’t have a final count until the students show up in September.
Mihaly says he is also worried that they’ll see a decline in the average GPA and LSAT scores of the incoming class.
Starting last September, VLS enacted a plan to shrink the school in response to a tuition dollar drought that left it with a $3.3 million budget gap. The school attracted national attention last winter when it cut 12 staff positions — 10 were through voluntary buyouts and two were involuntary.
This past spring, in a quieter move, VLS whittled down its faculty. Eight professors, of the 40 who were eligible, voluntarily moved from full-time to part-time positions. Mihaly estimated that two or three other positions were eliminated when professors departed for personal reasons.
VLS has been pruning expenses elsewhere, too. It has cut down on cleaning services and changed the hours and offerings of its food service, among other changes. At one point, there were conversations about whether coffee would continue to be available in offices, according to one staff member.
An analysis by Bloomberg Business Week shows VLS had the third-highest acceptance rate in 2012, with 83 percent of applicants being admitted. [In past years, the rate has typically fallen between 60 percent and 75 percent.] That prompted The Careerist, a law job blog, to place it in the unflattering category of “law schools where your pet poodle can probably get in.”
But VLS’s acceptance rate isn’t as munificent as it may seem, according to Mihaly. The school attracts a certain type of student, Mihaly says — people more concerned with changing the world than making money — and those who don’t fit that mold generally don’t apply.
Update: After some correspondence with Peter
Glenshaw, Director of Communications at Vermont Law School, I’ve learned
that the precise numbers involved are:
(1) Four tenure/tenure-track faculty have gone from full to
part-time. Two tenured/tenure track faculty left the school, and their
positions were eliminated. Together this represents a 21.4% reduction
in the number of full-time tenure track faculty.
(2) Four contract faculty have gone from full to part-time. This
represents 13% of the contract faculty. Thus the number of full-time
positions on the teaching faculty (TT and contract) has been reduced by
Mr. Glenshaw wishes to emphasize that the eight faculty members who
have gone from full-time to part-time status will, in his words,
“continue to teach or work at VLS in the coming years. We are thrilled
that every faculty member who participated in this voluntary program
will remain involved in our community as teachers and educators, and we
look forward to their contributions in the coming years.”