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Plan for Public Law School Advances in Mass.

An effort to create the first public law school in Massachusetts got a boost Friday when University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson gave it his endorsement. Wilson said he is convinced that the law school proposal is fiscally sound and would create a program with high academic standards.

As noted here last month, the plan calls for the UMass-Dartmouth campus to take over the private, unaccredited Southern New England School of Law in North Dartmouth. The law school's board of trustees voted last month o donate to UMass its campus and assets, valued at $22.6 million. Massachusetts is one of just six states without a public law school.

The plan quickly drew opposition from critics who say the state already has a surplus of law schools and of lawyers and that it would cost the state tens of millions of dollars to bring the school to a level that would allow it to earn ABA accreditation.

But Wilson said the school would not consume state or university dollars and instead would create revenue. He cited figures from UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack projecting that the law school's cumulative cash balance would grow from $1.8 million in 2011 to $10.2 million in 2018 and that enrollment would climb from 278 students next year to 559 in academic year 2017-2018. Tuition would go to the state's general fund, generating $500,000 next year and $1 million annually within five years, Wilson said. Student fees would remain on campus and would serve to support the program.

"I am convinced we will be able to create a law program that will win national accreditation and go well beyond that to become known for its high academic standards and its commitment to public service law," Wilson said. "This program will not consume state or university dollars, and, in fact, will create revenue for the commonwealth and for the university."

The proposal calls for the school to seek ABA provisional accreditation during academic year 2011-2012.

The next step for the proposal comes later this month, when it will be reviewed by the university’s Committee on Academic and Student Affairs and its Committee on Administration and Finance. From there, it is slated to go before the UMass Board of Trustees on Dec 10. If the trustees approve it, the proposal would go to the state Board of Higher Education,which four years ago rejected a similar proposal.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 16, 2009 at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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