Law Schools, Southern New England School of Law/Umass, Student Loans

Umass Trustees Approve Plan for Public Law School

Southern New England School of Law logo.jpgAs we mentioned in Morning Docket, late last week the University of Massachusetts board of trustees approved the plan to convert the Southern New England School of Law into the state’s first public law school. The vote went 14 to 4. The Boston Globe reports:

“A public law program will fill a conspicuous gap in the Commonwealth’s public higher education curriculum,” said UMass president Jack Wilson. “It will give our students the public law option that exists in 44 other states. . . . This is about students and about educational opportunity. It is not about which private law school may face more competition.”

Oh please. This is not about the students. And it’s certainly not about educational opportunity — unless by “opportunity” you mean the invitation to saddle yourself with tens of thousands of dollars of debt in exchange for a degree from an unaccredited law school in the midst of the worst market for legal jobs anybody can remember.
We all know what this is about: money. Lenders have it, the state wants it, the financial future of citizens of the Commonwealth be damned.
After the jump, we don’t even have to read between the lines to see the true motives in Massachusetts.

I’m not surprised that state law makers and state educators would conspire to bilk prospective law students that don’t know any better. I am a little surprised with how bold they are with their student bilking intentions:

UMass Dartmouth chancellor Jean MacCormack had previously laid out plans that said the public law school would operate free of taxpayer dollars and eventually funnel millions into UMass Dartmouth and the state through expanded enrollment. Officials have estimated that the school would grow from 235 students to 559 by 2017.

And you’ll have jobs for those 559 graduates, right? You know, jobs, those things that make going to law school a non-economically ruinous endeavor. You’ve done the economic impact studies to show that the Massachusetts legal market can support all of the new graduates you intend to churn out?
Southern New England can’t find jobs for the 235 people it has there right now. Remember just two weeks ago we told you about a woman who was in the top half of her class who couldn’t pass the bar and is now trying to get her debts discharged through bankruptcy. You can see why the four people who tried to stop this madness voted the way they did:

Jennifer Braceras, a UMass trustee, said she voted against the proposal because it was being proposed at the wrong time with the wrong institution.
“The university is about to create a law school on the backs of an unaccredited and failing school,” Braceras said.

But from the perspective of law school administrators, “jobs” is somebody else’s problem. All they are worried about is making sure the tuition checks keep following:

The school’s primary source of revenue would come from tuition and fees, to be $23,565, nearly half the amount charged by Suffolk and New England law schools in Boston.

$23,565/year x 3 years + no job = still totally screwed. Is there a study available that shows roughly $70,000 of debt is a smart investment in this legal economy? Is there a study available that shows a significant market rebound just around the corner? Is there a study available that shows there is a community or social good provided by lawyers who start out $70,000 in the hole and have to take the highest paying job possible to pay off their loans? If Massachusetts needs more med-mal lawyers, I want to see the numbers.
In short, did Umass officials study this proposal, at all, on any metric other than “how much we can charge/how much we have to invest?”
It is against that backdrop that Umass president Jack Wilson had the gall to fix his mouth to say this proposal is all about “the students.” Yeah, Umass really cares about them. You can tell by all the research and analysis Umass has done about the legal market in the state and whether its prospective students can afford to go $70,000 into debt to be a part of it. That “screwed with your pants on” sensation is just what love feels like in Massachusetts.
UMass trustees OK a public law school [Boston Globe]
Earlier: Southern New England School of Law Prepares to Fight
Discharging Law School Debt in Bankruptcy Doesn’t Get Any Easier When You Are Old

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