Golden Gate Law students with free tuition plan to stay at the school despite concerns
Lyndsey Glasgow was excited about receiving a full-ride scholarship to attend Golden Gate University School of Law. But the feeling was tempered when she went to the new-student orientation in August.
She found out there that the full-tuition scholarships were given to all full-time, in-person, first-year JD students. The school announced the scholarships in a September 2022 press release. Glasgow received individual notice of her award in March 2022. The law school’s first-year class had a total of 20 full-time students, according to its Standard 509 Information Report.
“I thought I would be going in with some of the highest metrics, and that might have the potential to put me ahead of the curve. Then I learned we all had similar metrics. I would have liked to have that information,” says Glasgow, who took out cost-of-living loans for law school. She also was accepted at California Western School of Law with a scholarship that covered 75% of tuition, and she was accepted at the University of San Francisco School of Law with a partial scholarship.
The median LSAT score for Glasgow’s full-time classmates is 154, and their median undergraduate GPA is 3.26, according to the law school’s 509 report.
Another surprise came in June 2023, when the San Francisco Standard reported that the law school’s future was at stake because the university could not continue to sustain its operating deficit. By that time, most law schools’ transfer application deadlines had passed.
According to the Standard’s article, Golden Gate University sent its law school community a letter describing the devaluation of real estate where it owned property coupled with meeting ABA standards as “a perfect storm.”
“The university cannot continue to sustain an operating deficit from the law school,” the letter read. “And we must maintain sufficiently high admissions standards in order to comply with [American Bar Association] bar passage requirements. No decisions have been made.”
On June 22, a university spokesperson sent the ABA Journal a communication stating that the board and the university’s executive leadership team were reviewing all options for solving the law school’s “challenges.”
Mark Yates, dean of the law school, did not respond to specific questions asked by the Journal. The university spokesperson forwarded a June 30 communication that Yates and David Fike, Golden Gate’s president, sent to the law school community.
The university will continue to “engage in a careful process” of reviewing options to solve the law school’s challenges, including a significantly reduced faculty over the next two years, it stated. The closure issue was addressed too.
“We also want to let you know, in the clearest possible terms—no matter what course is chosen for our law school—that GGU Law will continue to operate during the academic year 2023-24 and beyond as necessary to ensure at a minimum that all currently enrolled and entering students will continue to receive their scholarships and be able to receive an ABA-accredited degree,” the letter states.
Kevin Johnson, dean of University of California at Davis School of Law, told the ABA Journal they have three transfer students coming from Golden Gate.
Glasgow and other Golden Gate Law students interviewed by the Journal say they plan to stay put. Their tuition is free, and if the law school closes before they graduate, they are somewhat confident an ABA-approved teach-out plan will include schools that will accept them as transfer students, based on details from Rule 29, which covers teach-outs, in the ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools.
Various accreditation issues are pending at Golden Gate Law. In February, the council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar gave the law school an extension to come into compliance with Standard 316, which requires a two-year bar pass rate at or above 75%. The school has not met that benchmark since its class of 2017, according to ABA data.
And the university received a formal notice of concern from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, an accrediting commission. A letter dated March 17 details reporting requirements from the commission, including a continued forecast of cash balances to ensure university spending doesn’t outpace the realization of new revenues.
Golden Gate’s September 2022 press release describes the full-ride scholarships—as well as new bachelor’s and master of law studies degree programs—as part of its commitment to diversity. Accreditation issues are not mentioned in the release.
“I don’t think the law school is bad—well, I guess from a business perspective it is. But as a law student, it’s been a good school, and it was a great opportunity,” says Reagan Rice, who like Glasgow received a full-tuition scholarship and was initially unaware the award went to everyone in his class.
Rice also was accepted at Seattle University School of Law. When asked if he had regrets about choosing Golden Gate, Rice said he didn’t know yet.
“If the law school closes and most of my credits are not accepted, then yes. But If I go somewhere else and most of my credits are accepted, then no,” he says.
Evan Lurie, another Golden Gate law student with a full scholarship, previously worked in education, financial planning and technology. During new-student orientation, he asked Colin Crawford, who then was the law school’s dean, how the university could afford to give everyone full-ride scholarships.
According to Lurie, Crawford’s response was that other programs, including the law school’s bachelor’s and master of legal studies programs, would cover costs.
“The problem was they didn’t get that stuff approved by the different accrediting bodies until they were very late in the recruiting process. They ended up with something like fewer than 20 students in those programs,” Lurie says.
Lurie also says he was told that the law school delayed releasing scholarship details because it was waiting for reliable plan approval—perhaps related to Standard 316 compliance—from the ABA legal education section council.
Lurie suspects the law school will enter a teach-out plan for financial reasons, not because it won’t come into compliance with ABA accreditation standards. Until then, he also plans to ride things out at Golden Gate.
“Do I feel like I’ve gotten a decent legal education thus far? Yes, I do. Do I feel like the professors are invested in my success? I do. Do I feel like I could have gotten a better legal education someplace else? Maybe, but not for free,” says Lurie, who did not take out loans for law school.
ABAJournal.com: “As Golden Gate Law works to meet bar pass standard, new students get full scholarships”
ABAJournal.com: “Law school gets extension to meet Standard 316; ABA Legal Ed council posts additional notice on faculty diversity”