University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson today formally threw his support behind a proposal to create the state's first public law school in southeastern Massachusetts.
Under a plan announced last month, the 235-student Southern New England School of Law would donate its assets and facilities to the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, in a deal worth an estimated $22.6 million.
“I believe that the University of Massachusetts would be honoring its mission by expanding its educational reach and by extending additional opportunities to the citizens of the Commonwealth,” Wilson said in a statement. “The citizens of southeastern Massachusetts and the citizens of the Commonwealth deserve more educational opportunity -- not less.”
In highlighting his support for the plan, which was expected, Wilson addressed a key concern of opponents: the law school's financial viability. Some critics, including rival private law schools, say the state takeover of the school would amount to what they called a taxpayer-funded bailout of a failing school.
But Wilson today expressed confidence with the projections by UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack, who says the law school's cash balance would grow from $1.8 million in 2011 to $10.2 million by 2018. Enrollment would grow from 278 in fall 2010 to 559 students in the 2017-2018 academic year, she says.
Tuition from the public law school would go to the state’s general fund, and UMass officials said it would generate $500,000 for the state next year and rise to $1 million annually within five years.
Southern New England School of Law is not accredited by the American Bar Association. Wilson said the university would seek that status for the 2011-2012 academic year.
The law-school plan will go this month before UMass's Committee on Academic and Student Affairs and its Committee on Administration and Finance. The UMass Board of Trustees is expected to take up the measure Dec 10. If approved by that board, the proposal would go to the state Board of Higher Education.
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