The planned affiliation between the Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Western Michigan University has been signed off on by two accrediting bodies, according to mlive.com.
President John Dunn announced that the plan is one step closer to its goal when he spoke at the WMUK “West-Southwest” program. He was taking part in an interview with news director Andrew Robins and Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Yvonne Zipp on WMUK.
The Higher Learning Commission and the American Bar Association have both provided their approval of the affiliation between the largest private law school in the country and the public university. The law school will then become the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
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The law school, which has a campus in Tampa, has to clear one final hurdle. Dunn and other officials will travel to the Florida campus on September 17 to talk with regulators.
Earlier this July, the law school said it would cancel its first-year class at the Ann Arbor campus due to declining enrollment. It also said it would start a cost-cutting plan that includes staff layoffs and faculty cuts.
“We remain very excited,” Dunn said.
“These are times that you have to do responsible and appropriate things. I think the Cooley Board, including President (Don) LeDuc, are responsible, and they’re balancing their budget,” said Dunn. “But again, that’s not uncommon in higher education and it’s certainly not uncommon in the world of business and commerce.”
The total enrollment this fall at the law school is going to hover between 2,200 and 2,300 students. This is a decrease from the 2,477 in 2013.
“We did careful due diligence as we looked at the relationship and the affiliation with Cooley. That included looking at financial, fiduciary oversight. So there’s nothing here that is inherently surprising or unexpected to us,” Dunn said. “I think in some ways it speaks to the idea of an affiliation or relationship-building. These are challenging times in higher education.”
Dunn also spoke about other private schools that signed partnerships with public universities. He spoke of Arizona State University and Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona.
“These are very different times,” Dunn said. “And as I’ve said from the beginning, our mission and our responsibility in higher education is to think a little bit outside of the box to look at relationships – in this case, an affiliation – in ways that are helpful, most importantly, to the people we’re trying to serve: the students here as well as the students at Cooley.”