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Attention, Interest, Decision, Action

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Over the last few years, the Thomas Cooley School of Law has become something of a byword for what’s wrong with American legal education, so it’s fitting that it has become the first school to downsize by actually closing an entire campus:

As with most law schools across the country, Cooley’s enrollment and revenue have continued to decline. Despite our ongoing cost control efforts, it has become apparent that we must now reassess our costs, including our faculty and staff levels, in light of current enrollment. Thus, Cooley’s board of directors and administration are instituting a financial management plan designed to right size and reinvent the school. Unfortunately, and as has occurred at a number of other law schools, the plan will include faculty and staff layoffs. As part of the plan, Cooley will also hold off enrolling incoming first-term students at the Ann Arbor campus for fall 2014, though all currently enrolled Ann Arbor students will continue to be able to pursue the school’s full curriculum.

The plan includes the following features of particular interest to students:

• We will work to keep tuition increases as low as possible. Details will be available in the coming weeks.
• We will continue to reward students through our already generous scholarship program.
• The 2014/15 academic calendar will not change.
• Student services will not change.

We are confident that this plan will help us remain at the forefront of innovative approaches to legal education and continue to deliver the broad, high-quality access to legal instruction students have come to expect from Cooley.

(h/t ATL).

Between 2010 and 2013, the school’s first year class contacted from 1,583 students to 582, and with the continuing slide in applicants to law schools in general it’s not surprising that TCSL is enduring major financial strain. This is now apparently the case even though as little as two years ago the school was still practically printing money, as it extracted more than $90 million per year in net tuition revenue from its federal educational loan conduits students. Cooley’s most recent publicly available financial disclosure forms are from FY2012, and they reveal a healthy 14% profit margin in regard to revenues over expenses. Of course technically Cooley doesn’t generate any profits, since it’s a non-profit organization organized for charitable purposes, and therefore exempt from paying federal income taxes.

At the time the main beneficiaries of this charitable endeavor included President & Dean Don LeDuc, who pulled in $575,562 in reportable compensation, and $45,905 in other compensation, and ranting old man distinguished emeritus professor (and former chief justice of the Michigan supreme court) Thomas Brennan, who received $329,198 in reportable and $43,865 in unreportable compensation, for what the school itself characterized in its financial disclosures as an average weekly work load of five hours. (This works out to an hourly wage of $1,492.25 for those of you scoring at home).

. . . And keeping it all in the family:

Laura LeDuc has been promoted from assistant dean to the newly created position of Associate Dean for Planning, Assessment, and Accreditation. In her new role, LeDuc supervises the school’s institutional planning and assessment activities and oversees Cooley’s relationships with its two accrediting bodies, the ABA and the HLC. She is based at the school’s Lansing campus.

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about higher ed in America in the 21st century is that you can never have enough associate deans for planning, assessment etc. etc. (Laura LeDuc is Don LeDuc’s daughter. She was paid $108,385 in 2011-12 when she was a mere Director of Planning, so no doubt a generous raise is in order).

Note that Cooley’s attempts to “keep tuition increases as low as possible” have resulted in the school raising tuition from $28,625 in 2008 to $43,500 in 2013.

Expect a lot more developments along these lines over the course of the next 24 months or so.

Update: Law School Truth Center counts the human cost:

Now, because of the lies spread by selfish malcontents, a city of 110,000 is left with only one law school.

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