Valparaiso Law School is denying a newspaper report that it is planning to cease enrolling students and close. However, “severe financial challenges” are forcing the northwestern Indiana law school to suspend admission of students for the fall of 2018.
In addition, Valparaiso said it is exploring alternatives for continuing operations, such as possibly affiliating with another law school or relocating.
Citing an analysis by third-party financial consultants and the expectation that enrollment will remain significantly low, the university has determined “the Law School is financially unsustainable for the foreseeable future and its continued operation could significantly impede the University’s ability to achieve its mission, vision and goals.”
In a press release announcing the decision, Frederick Kraegel, chairman of the board of directors of Valparaiso University, said, “This has been a very difficult decision. As the need for legal education continues to be challenged, we have taken numerous actions during the last several years to try to stabilize the Law School’s financial situation. Actions have included a reduction in employment levels last year in an attempt to align the school’s faculty and staff to its decreased student population. Despite these efforts, it is highly unlikely that the law school’s operations will achieve financial stability.”
Valparaiso University’s decision surprised the American Bar Association. The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recently lifted the censure it placed on the law school in 2016 due to concerns the school was admitting applicants who were unlikely to complete their course of study or pass the bar exam.
The law school admitted just 28 first-year students this year.
“We have seen reports that Valparaiso University School of Law intends to cease enrolling new students and to go through the process of closing the law school,” Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, said in a statement. “…Procedure sets out the required steps to cease operations, including promptly announcing that decision and notifying our office and other relevant regulators/program approvers of that decision. We look forward to the law school formally communicating that decision to our office in the very near future.”
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush learned today from Valparaiso Law Dean Andrea Lyon that the University will explore alternatives related to the severe financial challenges it faces. Rush said in a statement that the news does not diminish her high regard for the school, its faculty, and its students.
“Valparaiso has been a wonderful partner to the Indiana Supreme Court on numerous initiatives including oral argument on the road, our legal history lecture series, evaluations on cameras in court, and the Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity (ICLEO) program. The Judicial Branch benefits from the leadership of respected alumni such as former Justice Robert D. Rucker and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik. I send my best to the Valpo law community.”