SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School’s board of directors approved a bold plan on Aug. 28 to sustain and strengthen the law school’s access mission. The plan will significantly reduce tuition, at all campuses including its Tampa Bay campus, and address current and future campus efficiencies.
President and Dean James McGrath recommended, and the board of directors agreed, to reduce tuition from the current rate of $1,750 per credit hour to $1,375 per credit hour.
“We realize that a significant part of providing access to legal education is cost. To put it simply, we became too expensive,” said McGrath.
The competitive 21 percent reduction will begin in the fall semester of 2020.
“Through effective fiscal management and generous donations, the law school is in a position to make this bold move,” said Board Chair Lawrence P. Nolan.
STATUS ON MICHIGAN CAMPUS
In addition to lowering tuition, the board of directors will take the steps necessary to seek approval from the American Bar Association and the Higher Learning Commission to close the Auburn Hills, Michigan, campus. The board also authorized reducing the Lansing campus footprint.
McGrath said, “Our current campus structure was built at a time when the demand for legal education was significantly higher. By reducing our excess capacity, we will have improved resources to strengthen our position as a leader of modern legal education.”
The law school’s administration anticipates continued operation of the Auburn Hills campus through December 2020, subject to approval of the ABA Council on Legal Education and the Higher Learning Commission. Each Auburn Hills student will receive individual advising on a degree completion plan.
The law school’s board of directors did not make any employment reduction decisions. The board notes that the school’s greatest asset is its deeply dedicated faculty and staff at all of its locations. Any employment reduction decisions will be made with the hope of maximizing voluntary attrition and relocating as many impacted employees as possible.
“The board believes,” said McGrath, “that lowering tuition, maintaining the higher admissions standards adopted in January 2019, and reducing its footprint will allow the law school to maintain its access mission, continue to serve a diverse population, improve student outcomes, and strengthen its affiliation with Western Michigan University.”