Law Schools

How the University of Minnesota Law School is dealing with a sizable drop in applications

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The University of Minnesota Law School named a new law dean on Thursday who will carry out the school’s strategy for dealing with one of the largest declines in applications among the nation’s top 20 law schools.

Ohio State University law professor Garry Jenkins will take over as Minnesota’s law dean on July 31, provided he is approved by the Board of Regents in June, according to a press release and the New York Times DealBook blog. He is a former chief operating officer and general counsel for the Goldman Sachs Foundation.

Jenkins will be taking over at a time when the University of Minnesota law school responded to the drop in applications by cutting enrollment. The size of the school’s 1L class dropped to 174 in the 2015 school year, down from 250 a few years before that.

The school is using university money to supplement law school finances, while cutting staff and delaying hiring for faculty openings, the Times reports. It has also created a Minnesota Law Public Interest Residence Program that allows 3Ls to work in public interest in government jobs where they will work full-time after graduation. The school has also increased financial aid to lower tuition by varying amounts for 90 percent of its students.

Amid the changes, the school’s U.S. News ranking has fallen to No. 22 (in a tie with two other schools), down from No. 20.

The Times notes that the school has “hometown competition” from other law schools and cites a gloomy assessment by Cleveland-Marshall emeritus law professor David Barnhizer. He asserts that law schools in the Great Lakes and Midwest region are operating in areas that are economically depressed with populations that are static, aging or declining.

Barnhizer told the Times he believes that many lesser-ranked law schools in the region (but not Minnesota’s higher-ranked school) will “simply wither away.”

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