Valparaiso University's law school is offering tenured professors and other faculty members with multi-year contracts buyouts due to the nationwide trend of sharp declines in student applications and enrollment.
"To put the law school and our students in the best position to succeed, we are taking steps to meet the challenges facing legal education," university spokeswoman Nicole Niemi said.
Valparaiso is not alone in seeing a post-recession drop in enrollment. The University of Notre Dame and Indiana University law schools also have seen their class sizes shrink, The (Munster) Times reports.
Andrea Lyon, dean of Valparaiso University's law school, said there are 36 full-time faculty members and the school hasn't yet set a target number for the number of professors it hopes will accept the buyouts.
Enrollment in the law school has been going down and the school has been more selective from a smaller pool of applicants, Lyon said. She also said legal education has taken quite a hit and the number of people taking the LSAT nationwide has gone down 50 percent from 2009 to now.
Linda Hanson, president emeritus of Hamline University in Minnesota, commends Valparaiso for downsizing.
"You cannot stay at a size that is too large for the number of students they are attracting," she said.
Kevin O'Rear, assistant dean for academic and student affairs at Notre Dame, said applications to its law school and others across the country were down significantly following the recession, but the trend has reversed at Notre Dame in the last few years.
"Our applications have slightly gone up," he said. "The size of our first-year class has increased the past couple of years and the quality of students has gone up as well."
Hanson said Notre Dame is ranked in the top tier of law schools and will attract a student with a different academic profile who scores high on the LSAT compared to those attending lower-ranked schools.
"LSAT scores do make a difference," she said. "More prominent law schools may be seeing enrollment growth."
Ken Turchi, spokeswoman for Indiana University Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, said its current class size is 153. It had 250 students in 2010.
"We don't expect to have classes that high again," he said. "There's a kind of inverse relationship between the state of the economy and the number of people who want to go to law school. When the economy is not as good, people stay in school."