The University of Illinois at Chicago is proposing to absorb the John Marshall Law School) (only the one in Chicago, not the one in Atlanta), thereby forming what someone with a poor sense of grammar, style, and concision would call the University of Illinois at Chicago's John Marshall Law School. Officials ju$tify this proposal on the grounds that UI Chicago somehow needs a law school—everybody else has one, you know—and that John Marshall would benefit from the resources and facilities of a large university backed by the (nearly insolvent) state of Illinois.
In decades past, John Marshall offered working-class people reasonable and affordable access to the legal profession. Today, however, it is a toilet par excellence (so to speak). Its LSAT scores have fallen from a shameful 151/154/157 in 2010 to an utterly contemptible 145/148/151 in 2016. Enrollment, too, has plummeted, from 539 first-year students in 2010 to 282 in 2016. Seventeen percent of last year's graduates were unemployed ten months after graduation, and 15% were in short-term or part-time jobs; only 4% were in Big Law, and none got a federal clerkship. The cost of attendance, $75k per year, would run up a bill exceeding $280k if fully financed with student loans. A third of the class gets no discount on tuition; most others get only a slight discount.
UI Chicago seems to be proud of its reputation. Why, then, is it so eager to take over one of the US's most toilety law schools? Can the putative benefits from this proposed take-over really offset the reputational harm?
Bear in mind that John Marshall does have one thing going for it: land. It was established in 1899, when Chicago was much smaller and land was much cheaper. Perhaps the idea here is to grab the assets (especially the valuable urban land), ship the remaining students down to Urbana–Champaign (home to a formerly faux-prestigious, now plainly toilety, law school shaken by scandal in 2011), and then shut John Marshall down. Just imagine the excuse proffered for public consumption: "Enrollment had fallen by 50% in the few years before we acquired John Marshall, and economic conditions in legal education remain poor. Our feasibility study"—yes, one of these has already been produced, à la Indiana Tech—"convinced us that this project would succeed, but circumstances conspired against us. At least we have a great building, though, which we are going to convert to cozy administrative offices just as soon as we can get rid of the little bast—er, I mean, once the law students have left."
Is this merely an asset-stripping ploy? Could UI Chicago seriously have in mind to sustain a bottom-of-the-barrel law school? I'm eager to hear your thoughts.