Albany Law Offers Buyouts to Offset Lower Enrollment

, New York Law Journal

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Albany Law School
Albany Law School

ALBANY - Albany Law School and some of its professors are at odds over plans to reduce faculty size due to declining enrollment, giving rise to a broader question of whether the institution should lower its standards to save jobs.

The school on Monday offered buyouts to up to eight longer-tenured and higher-salaried professors. At the same time, the Board of Trustees, in a statement, and the law school's dean, in an interview, flatly rejected an idea, apparently promoted by some faculty, to lower admissions standards.

"A review of our declining bar passage statistics (we are now the second lowest law school in New York State for bar passage), combined with the extremely difficult employment market for our graduates, compels us to believe that we must focus on quality of applicants, not quantity," the board said in a memo Monday to faculty. "To admit students in order to increase revenues due to projected operating deficits would be both unethical and in violation of ABA standards."

Penelope Andrews, dean and president of Albany Law School, said in an interview that any discussion of lowering standards is off the table.

"We have a commitment to the people who come into the building to prepare them to practice law," Andrews said. "We have to ensure that they can succeed in our program and also pass the bar. We will not increase the number of people we admit just to fill our class. It is an ethical issue, and we will accept only students who can succeed in law school."

Eighty percent of Albany Law School graduates who took the bar exam in July passed, giving the school the second lowest bar passage rate among the 15 law schools in the state. Only Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, with a passage rate of 68 percent, was lower (NYLJ, Nov. 25, 2013).

Andrews said the faculty and administration have engaged in discussions on how to reduce costs and increase revenues. She confirmed that one of the ideas floated was to admit more students, especially those on the "wait list" who are on the cusp of earning admission.

But Andrews said admitting students for financial gain would be "irresponsible."

One Albany Law professor said a "small but vocal minority" of faculty want the school to lower its standards to boost its tuition revenues and lessen the chances of layoffs.

"It is a very selfish, selfish endeavor," the professor said. "They are really trying to save their jobs, but they've ginned this up to make it look like we are denying academic rights."

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    As a longtime member of the Albany Law Faculty, a loyal donor, and an educator who has long worked on issues of reform of law schools, I attest that the remarks of the anonymous professor quoted in this article are false. The overwhelming majority of the faculty are deeply concerned about the mismanagement that is currently occurring at the school that has led to this unwelcome media attention.

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