UMass Law enrollment exceeds hopes; budding program labeled a success

Administrators at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth say establishing a law school at the public institution – a proposal that had many critics last year – has proved a success only a few months into the first school year. More

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Focus: LAW

UMass Law enrollment exceeds hopes; budding program labeled a success

PBN PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
LAW OF THE LAND: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth law student Nataly McKinney, foreground, in the school’s library. The school’s law program, which began in September, is projected to return more money to the state’s general fund than initially forecast.
Posted 11/29/10

Administrators at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth say establishing a law school at the public institution – a proposal that had many critics last year – has proved a success only a few months into the first school year.

The UMass School of Law, a result of a merger with the former Southern New England School of Law, drew much more interest from applicants than expected. The program is projected to return more money to the state’s general fund than initially forecast.

Also, the school says it has built up more than $4.5 million in reserves, a key factor in determining whether it will gain accreditation

Skeptics had predicted the takeover of Southern New England would end up costing the cash-strapped state millions, but UMass says that has not been the case from the start.

“The reality is this school never cost the taxpayers a dime in additional money,” UMass spokesman John Hoey told Providence Business News.

Massachusetts’ first public law school has been popular so far, at least among potential students.

UMass said it expected to receive about 400 law school applications earlier this year. Instead it got more than 500 from as far away as California, even though recruitment couldn’t start until the takeover was approved in February, when most law schools are preparing to mail acceptance letters.

At the same time, Hoey said, more than 1,000 people inquired about applying for fall 2011.

UMass law school administrators had initially planned to accept 123 first-year students and allow another 155 Southern New England students in good standing to continue their studies. Instead, because of the number of applicants, the school admitted 168 new students but dropped the number of former Southern New England students to 150.

The total enrollment of 318 students is ahead of the 278 in the first-year plans assembled by UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack, who had projected that enrollment would climb to 559 by 2017.

The larger enrollment this year means that university administrators have raised estimates on tuition to be poured into the state general fund from $600,000 to $800,000.

The school has already come a long way from its days as the Southern New England School of Law, which was accredited by both the Massachusetts and New England bars but not by the American Bar Association. That lack of accreditation meant that graduates weren’t allowed to sit for bar exams in numerous states.

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