Cooley Law School will close another campus; 'not really enough students to make it work,' dean says
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The Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School announced Monday that it is closing its Grand Rapids, Michigan, campus and consolidating operations in the state at its Lansing, Michigan, location.
The Grand Rapids campus will close Aug. 31, 2021, pending approval by accrediting agencies, according to Law.com, the Detroit News, the Lansing State Journal and an Aug. 17 press release.
The law school has also suspended classes at its campus in Kalamazoo, Michigan, this year, according to Law.com.
Cooley Law School has reduced tuition by 21% for the 2020-21 academic year. Its classes will be hosted online this fall.
The announcement comes a year after the law school announced closure of its Auburn Hills, Michigan, campus. The school also has a campus in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Cooley Law School was once the largest law school in the nation, with nearly 4,000 students in 2010. The number had dropped to 1,156 students in fall 2019.
James McGrath, the law dean at Cooley, told Law.com that the school was closing the Grand Rapids campus because of a dramatic drop in enrollment there. McGrath said Cooley is trying to admit strong incoming students because of the ABA’s tougher standard for bar passage rates.
The bar passage standard, known as Standard 316, requires at least 75% of an ABA-accredited law school’s graduates who take a bar exam to pass one within two years of graduation. Cooley was listed as noncompliant in May, based on 2017 graduates. Noncompliant schools must submit a report demonstrating compliance by Feb. 1, 2021, to the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.
McGrath told Law.com that the Auburn Hills and Grand Rapids campuses had too few students. About 100 students are enrolled at the Grand Rapids campus for the fall, down from a peak of 750 students.
“There was not really enough students to make it work,” he said. “Each campus operates almost like its own law school, so the expenses are the same, whether it’s 100 students or 500 students. We were hoping the Auburn Hills closure would be enough. With COVID—even though applications to law school are up slightly—the applications to us in the range of students we’re trying to attract is way down.”