How the UMN law school is faring in the admissions slump

Wippman (UMN)

In reporting how the national law-school admissions slump has been affecting Minnesota law schools, I put a call in to David Wippman, dean of law school at the University of Minnesota.

He said applications are down about 9 percent this year, and have been falling for the past three years or so.

So far about 220 students have made deposits to hold their spots, he said, and the U hopes to boost that to 230 by revisiting students on the wait list.

That enrollment number is lower than the school’s historical average of 240-250.

Last year, Wippman said, the U intentionally took in a “very small” class — about 205 students — to make sure that the school maintained its median grade-point averages and scores on the Law School Admission Test.

But he told me:

“That’s not really sustainable for us financially, so we are trying to take a larger class this year.”

To do that, he said, it has had to accept lower median scores.

(He said competitive pressures kept him from saying what those were. And said he wasn’t sure what the median scores will wind up being.)

Despite the slump, the U’s faculty numbers have remained constant, he said, but nine staffers have taken voluntary buyouts this year.

Meanwhile, the school is finding ways to raise revenue.

A year from this fall, Wippman said, it hopes to launch a one-year master’s degree that focuses on patent law. It’s aimed at non-lawyers — such as businesspeople and engineers — who are interested in becoming patent agents or patent examiners, or “those working in the technology industry who want to know more about intellectual-property law.”

The U is also expanding its master’s program for those with foreign law degrees who want to learn about U.S. law.

The school has created a mock-trial boot camp for high school students, and Wippman also hopes to see those students years from now when they’re ready to earn a law degree.

The U is also considering various programs in business law and other fields, as well as online courses.

For now, Wippman said, having a smaller freshman class is beneficial to students in some ways:

“There’s a smaller faculty-student ratio, and it should facilitate placement of students when they graduate, because there are fewer students to place. So there’s a silver lining.”

  • wbgleason

    The private law school model that the U of M has tried to follow may not be working. As a public school it is difficult to compete with the privates. Especially when top 20 law school seats are not as valuable as they used to be. It is becoming a buyer’s market. It would be interesting to see the distribution of financial aid at the U of M law school. Are high GPA and LSAT students being purchased with free rides while the average law student shoulders professionally unhealthy debt?

    It is good to see that, to some extent, the U is now following the Hamline model of diversification. As usual they are late to the game, and the marketplace may make this transformation difficult, because there are too many law schools in the Twin Cities.