Whittier College announced earlier this week that their affiliated law school would not be accepting a new class in 2017 in preparation for the school's eventual closing. No new applicants will be accepted and the school will close after its current students graduate.
The school's closure is part of a larger downslide of law school applications - down nearly 50% since 2005. As a result, lower-ranked schools began accepting students with less desirable applications including those with lower GPAs and LSAT scores. Whittier's enrollment of first-year law students dropped to 132 students in 2016; down from 303 in 2010. The school's state bar passage rate for first-time test takers was the lowest of the California accredited law schools. The law school also has one of the highest attrition rates and one of the highest average debt burdens.
Faculty members tried to get a temporary restraining order to halt the school's closure, but were unsuccessful. In 2015, officials told the law school faculty that the school was facing a deficit but would make budget cuts to reduce costs. Trustees voted last week to shut the school down.
Whittier's students, alumni, and faculty are understandably upset. Some believe the closure devalues their law degree, while future graduates worry about their job prospects. Others are exploring litigation as an option, especially those who believe the decision was racially motivated - Whittier is the second-most diverse law school in the United States, with a majority of its students being women and a majority of its students being non-Caucasian. A large number of students are single mothers, immigrants, and low-income students.
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