As classes begin again, Valparaiso University Law School is standing apart from other Indiana law schools as it welcomes an incoming 1L class of just 28 students, 73 percent smaller than the class that entered last year.
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and Indiana University Maurer School of Law are also matriculating fewer 1L students but the declines are not as dramatic as at Valparaiso. IU McKinney’s Class of 2020 is 4 percent smaller at 244 and IU Maurer’s is 8 percent smaller at 164.
Only Notre Dame Law School has posted an increase. The Catholic institution is reporting an incoming 1L class of 199 students, 6 percent bigger than the class that started in the fall of 2016.
Although class sizes at Valparaiso have been declining, this year’s drop is by far the steepest. Going back to 2013, the northwest Indiana law school matriculated a 1L class of 208. In the subsequent years, the size fell from 174 in 2014 to 130 in 2015 to 103 last year, according to the American Bar Association’s Standard 509 Reports.
The smaller class at Valparaiso has come with some of the highest LSAT scores and grade point averages of any recent 1L group. Students just starting their legal studies this semester have a median LSAT of 151 and a median GPA of 3.23.
Classes that entered Valparaiso between 2013 and 2016 all had median LSAT scores in the 140s. The lowest median LSAT score of 143 came from the 1Ls of 2013 and the highest of 147 was brought by the 1Ls of 2016. GPAs also ranged from 2.93 posted by the 2015 incoming class to 3.10 from the 2014 incoming class.
“I feel very optimistic,” Dean Andrea Lyon said. “I feel like our programming is working and we’re starting to have national rankings. I feel optimistic about the school.”
The incoming class is a bright spot for the northwest Indiana law school which has weathered some turbulent time recently. In 2016, Valparaiso downsized its faculty and was censured by the American Bar Association.
Valparaiso’s Class of 2020 is also diverse. Of the students, 39 percent are female and 25 percent are underrepresented minorities. In addition, 61 percent are first-generation college students and 21 percent are non-traditional students.
The law school has a strong reputation for having a diverse student body along with being welcoming and inclusive. Lyon attributed recruiting efforts with keeping the incoming class a mix of race, religions and backgrounds. She said having students who are parents in class with students who grew up in the inner city and who grew up on a farm brings different perspectives and enriches the curriculum.
“It all makes for a really robust conversation and sympathetic engagement. We can look at things from different perspectives without being divisive in the way the country seems to be right now.”
Here’s a snapshot of the 2017 incoming class at Indiana’s law schools based on preliminary data reported:
Number of JD students: 244
Median LSAT: 153
Median GPA: 3.45
Percentage who are female: 53 percent
Percentage who are minorities: 20 percent
Number of students: 164
Median LSAT: 161
Median GPA: 3.75
Percentage who are female: 45 percent
Percentage who are minorities: 22 percent
Number of students: 199
Median LSAT: 164
Median GPA: 3.73
Percentage who are female: 45
Percentage who are minorities: 28
Number of students: 28
Median LSAT: 151
Median GPA: 3.23
Percentage who are female: 39 percent
Percentage who are minorities: 25 percent