Though official reporting for the 2012-2013 school year is not complete, several schools are reporting a decline in enrollment. An informal survey conducted by the Philadelphia Business Journal revealed that Rutgers School of Law-Camden is facing an enormous drop in student enrollment over the last year, and that this is indicative of declining enrollment at law schools across the country.
John Oberdiek, Vice Dean of Rutgers Law-Camden, told the Philadelphia Business Journal that between 2007 and 2011, the school had between 216 and 282 first year law school students. In 2012, the school only had 116 students, which is one of the most sizable declines in the country.
While law schools across the country are facing declines in enrollment, none were as substantial as Rutgers-Camden. Oberdiek credits this decline to the school’s potential merger with Rowan University which scared students away from applying to the schools in 2012. Though the merger was eventually called off by the New Jersey State Legislature, the discussion was enough to make potential students question the school’s long-term stability. In 2014, Rutgers-Camden will merge with the Newark Rutgers school, and the two schools will have identical admissions standards.
“The applications stopped coming when the merger talk started,” said Oberdiek. “We were supposed to become the Rowan law school and no one wanted a Rowan degree. So we faced an existential threat and had to rebuild in the worst legal economy of my lifetime.”
For Rutgers-Camden, enrollment is expected to improve. Oberdiek said that more than 116 students have already made deposits to enroll for the 2013-2014 school year.
Data released by the Law School Admission Counsel (LSAC) suggests that, in 2013, law school applications are down 18.6 percent from 2012 at institutions across the country.
The Philadelphia Business Journal also spoke with a few other law school deans about enrollment for 2012-2013. Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and Villanova University School of Law both saw a significant drop in enrollment, losing 73 and 34 students, respectively. Both schools admitted that their 2013-2014 enrollment numbers will be lower. University of Pennsylvania Law School and Drexel University’s Earle Mack School of Law have both maintained enrollment levels over the last several years.