- As law schools see declining interest nationwide, the University of Minnesota Law School has cut first-year admissions from 250 a few years ago to 174 in 2015, The New York Times reports.
- Applications are expected to remain flat this year, and the school has covered tuition losses and closed deficits with greater public subsidies and the use of $16.1 million in university funds through 2018 as the institution works to maintain its high ranking.
- The Minnesota law school has been hit hard by declines in particular, compared to its peers in the top 20 law schools, but outgoing dean David Wippman, who has led the school for eight years, says the reason is unclear and officials are still "trying to figure that out."
Law schools saw a boost in enrollment during the early 2000s when the field seemed like a safe bet for a high-paying job, but since the recession, many law school graduates have had trouble finding jobs that recoup the high cost of tuition.
Like many of its peers, the University of Minnesota Law School has had to consider difficult questions of whether to raise tuition, dismiss faculty or decline to admit students who may be less impressive to meet tuition targets — especially at a time when some graduates have resorted to suing schools on the grounds that they made their graduates' job prospects sound better than they actually were. Complicating matters further, schools in the hard-hit Great Lakes region also have plenty of competition from other high-ranked local peers.
The field may need to look to the liberal arts, which has also seen declines in recent years, as it looks to make a shift and justify its value to a critical public in a quickly changing economy. In an increasingly STEM-focused economy, liberal arts programs are finding new ways to assert their relevance in the higher education landscape by preparing students for positions that don't exist yet, as opposed to teaching them skills that will be stale in another five years. Law schools might do well to emphasize other intangible benefits of legal degrees as well as focusing on advertising non-lawyer career options for prospective students deterred by reports of a declining market.