Law Schools Merging in Minnesota Amid Enrollment Declines

, The National Law Journal


Hamline University School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law announced Friday that they would merge, in what appears a survival bid for two St. Paul institutions that have seen sharp enrollment declines.

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What's being said

  • John Charles Kunich

    The impending merger of two officially not-for-profit law schools highlights some hard realities of legal education. It is evident that both Hamline and William Mitchell pay close attention to their revenues-versus-expenses situation, as one would expect from any rational group of people who operate in the real world. When declining enrollments and tuition income caused a drop in surplus of revenues to expenses, and even some years with losses exceeding gains, the schools took the heretofore unprecedented step of merging. They merged, much as openly for-profit enterprises often do in the realm of business when market share falls, profits erode, and losses mount.

    There‘s absolutely nothing unethical, immoral, or shady about doing what one legally can to maintain a net positive P&L sheet, in my opinion. It seems probable that, where physical proximity and business considerations permit, there will be additional law school mergers and acquisitions during the next few years. Revenues are down, expenses remain high, and competition for students is fierce and escalating (see the recent "predatory poaching" controversy). Even for law schools that pride themselves on being putatively "not for profit," it is essential to have a surplus of income over outgo. We in legal academe exert great semantic gymnastics to call that anything but "profit," but a rose by any other name would be as thorny.

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