Following up on my previous posts (links below): Robert Anderson (Pepperdine), Generational Wealth Shifting and the Unnecessary Whittier Law School Story:
[G]iven the performance of Whittier's grads on the bar exam in recent years as well as the drop in applications, closing Whittier is probably the right decision.
The unfortunate truth of this story is that none of this needed to happen. ... When the contraction began, law schools should have reduced class sizes to maintain their traditional standards for admission. ... Of course, reducing class size would entail a decrease in revenues that would require a reduction in expenses. Normally, such a reduction would be hard to find.
But law schools had a unique opportunity during this contraction, which many of them squandered. The number of retirement-age faculty was (and is) enormous, likely larger than it has ever been. If faculties had looked beyond their own personal financial self interest they could have easily contracted to meet the market demand and avoided the disastrous effects that have afflicted law students and now law schools.
Sadly, the very faculty members whose institution provided them an outrageously rewarding career over many decades seemed the least likely to "pay it forward" by helping to reduce expenses. Indeed, many decided to foist all the sacrifice of layoffs on junior faculty or staff, who truly had the most to lose from losing their jobs.
Thus, the story of Whittier is a story of generational wealth shifting that is seen throughout tuition dependent law schools, and indeed throughout our country. The Millennial generation is expected to go deeply into debt to subsidize a population that is already (comparatively) wealthy. Because the Millennials do not yet, for the most part, have the clout to stop this, it is up to the rest of us to develop a conscience and start making hard decisions to provide our students with a plausible financial future.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- Whittier Law School To Close, Will Not Admit A 1L Class This Fall (Apr. 19, 2017)
- Tenured Faculty Sue To Stop Closure Of Whittier Law School (Apr. 20, 2017)
- Experts: Whittier Law School’s Collapse Won’t Be The Last (Apr. 20, 2017)
- Faculty Weighs Legal Options To Block Closure Of Whittier Law School After Court Rejects TRO; Board Pulled Plug With Only 40 Students Expected In Fall 2017 1L Class, Down 70% From 2016 (And 87% From 2010) (Apr. 21, 2017)
- 100 Students Protest Closure Of Whittier Law School (Apr. 22, 2017)
- Steve Diamond (Santa Clara), Whittier's Decision To Close Its Law School Violates AAUP Tenure Protections, Harms Diversity, And Ignores The Rebounding Legal Employment Market (Apr. 23, 2017)