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Law school death watch

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San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law joins Florida Coastal and Hamline as prominent recent admits into legal academia’s ICU:

The Thomas Jefferson School of Law will begin a new semester Monday with 12 fewer employees after the administration cut $4.4 million from its budget because of declining enrollment.

Thomas Guernsey, who took over as dean of the school on July 1, said Thursday that some adjunct faculty and other staff members were laid off. Fourteen classes that had low enrollment or were highly specialized were eliminated, he said.

(h/t ichininonsan at JDU. Given the precedents at FCSL and Hamline, the administration’s claim that only adjunct faculty and staff have been laid off warrants considerable skepticism).

How bad are things at TJSL? The school is carrying $133 million (!) in debt, incurred when it paid for a 305,000 square foot eight-story new law building in downtown San Diego, completed two years ago. It’s also dealing with a lawsuit by former students, which has survived a motion to dismiss and is now in full discovery. Here are some stats regarding the school’s most recent entering classes:

2010:

Applicants: 3,323
Offers: 1,604
Percentage of applicants admitted: 48.27%
Total matrics: 422
Median GPA: 3.00
Median LSAT: 151 (49th percentile)
Transfers in: 0
Transfers out: 48
Academic attrition: 35
Total full-time faculty and administrators: 44

2011

Applicants: 2,697
Offers: 1478
Percentage of applicants admitted: 54.8%
Total matrics: 440
Median GPA: 3.01
Median LSAT: 151
Transfers in: 3
Transfers out: 43
Academic attrition: 41
Total full-time faculty and administrators: 50

2012

Applicants: 2,200
Offers: 1,613
Percentage of applicants admitted: 73.3%
Total matrics: 387
Median GPA: 2.93
Median LSAT: 148 (37th percentile)
Transfers in: 9
Transfers out: 49
Academic attrition: 58
Total full-time faculty and administrators: 55

The school’s drastic slashing of already-low admission standards has not forestalled a collapse in this year’s enrollment. First year orientation began this week, with only 250 students in the new entering class.

Given that the school appears to depend on tuition for an astonishing 97% of its operating revenue, that it doesn’t have a parent university to bail it out, and that its only significant asset is a piece of San Diego real estate with a generic eight-story office building on it, the faculty lounge probably shouldn’t be stocked with green bananas.

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