Law Schools

2 schools seek approval to move Valpo Law to Middle Tennessee

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A proposed agreement in which the Indiana-based Valparaiso University would gift its law school infrastructure to Middle Tennessee State University, which would offer a reimbursement for interim expenses, has been reached by the governing boards at both institutions.

The potential agreement must be approved by both the Tennessee Higher Education Commission and the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana reports. If it goes through, the law school would be located in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

David Cleveland, Valparaiso University Law School’s interim dean, told the ABA Journal the schools have been working with the ABA’s legal education staff to make sure they comply with accreditation requirements, but the law school has not yet submitted its formal application for approval.

Valparaiso’s board of directors announced in November 2017 that it would suspend the admission of first-year students at the law school for the fall of 2018 in light of “severe financial challenges” and falling enrollment. The news came a few days after the legal education council removed a 2016 public censure stating the law school was not in compliance with council admissions standards. By 2017 the law school got its median LSAT score up to 151 and the censure was lifted. But there were only 31 students in Valpo Law’s first-year class, according to its 509 Report.

The law school currently has approximately 235 students, according to Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal. Nashville Public Radio reports the Tennessee Higher Education Commission has hired a research firm to conduct a feasibility study regarding the proposal, and it expects to have the information on Monday.

Three law schools are currently in middle Tennessee, which is where the Valparaiso law school would move to, Nashville Public Radio reports. Mark Brynes, MTSU’s provost, told the station that all the existing law schools there are private, and the area needs a public law school. Tennessee has three ABA-accredited law schools. Valpo Law, a private institution, is the only law school in northwest Indiana, and one of the state’s four law schools.

If the deal goes through, Cleveland told the Post-Tribune, over the summer of 2019 some faculty, staff and library materials would transfer to the MTSU campus, about 467 miles south of Valparaiso and linked by Interstate Highway 65. In the fall, the law school would operate on both the Valparaiso and MTSU campuses, with 17 students completing their final year in Indiana, and a new class starting in Tennessee.

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