In the wake of decreasing application numbers at law schools, George Washington University Law School has reduced its enrollment intentionally. Paul Schiff Berman, the school’s dean, said that the school is not planning to cut a set number of J.D. candidates from this fall’s incoming class but wants to reduce enrollment to under 450. The school also wants to continue to reduce enrollment in the following years. The school enrolled 474 J.D. students in the fall of 2011.
In April, the University of California Hastings College of Law announced its plans to lower enrollment by 20 percent over the next three years. During the 2011 school year, Creighton University School of Law, Albany Law School and Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center all dropped their enrollment numbers.
When Berman became the school’s top administrator in May of 2011, he planned then to start lowering the school’s enrollment. During the current admission cycle, the school saw a 15 percent decline in applications. The dip in applications follows a national trend that has been reported by the Law School Admissions Council. Berman claims that the information provided by the Law School Admissions Council helped aid him in his decision to lower enrollment.
U.S. News & World Report ranks law schools by using incoming students’ Law School Admission Test scores and grade-point averages of undergraduate students. Berman said that concerns over a lower ranking were not a factor in the decision because cutting enrollment does not necessarily increase a school’s ranking. Berman said there is more concern over admitting students to the school who will struggle academically.
“We are focused on maintaining the quality and standards of our class,” Berman said. “We want to make sure everyone we enroll we think will succeed in law school and be leaders in the profession.”
Berman said that the school will lose some tuition revenue but will attempt to make up for the loss with an increase in fundraising and with the installation of some new programs for non-lawyers. In the fall, the law school and the business school will offer a joint degree in law and business of government contracts. The school wants to create a similar program for non-lawyers when it comes to intellectual property. Berman said that reducing the class size will offer smaller classes, a decreased student-to-faculty ratio and a more intimate experience at the school.
“I think almost any school that can afford to do it will cut down the class size,” he said.