Board of Higher Education approves law school

History made. Justice advanced in unanimous vote

BRIDGEWATER -- University of Massachusetts President Jack M. Wilson and UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Jean F. MacCormack today expressed gratitude and appreciation after the state Board of Higher Education approved the creation of a public law school.

"This is a historic moment for public higher education in Massachusetts," President Wilson said. "The creation of a public law school means that Massachusetts residents will now have access to an affordable, high-quality legal education. Our citizens will have the same public law school opportunity that exists in 44 other states.

"A public law school means that law students will graduate with less debt and will have more flexibility in making their career choices. We will combine quality and affordability in a school that will be a beacon of opportunity and develop a national reputation for legal education excellence," President Wilson said.

"This is a great day for students and a great day for Massachusetts," President Wilson added.

Chancellor MacCormack said the Board of Higher Education's vote struck a blow for opportunity and for justice.

"With the creation of the state's first public law school, we have made history by once again expanding higher education opportunity for the citizens of the Commonwealth, and, in doing so, we hope to extend the promise of equal justice for all," Chancellor MacCormack said. "From this day forward, students who couldn't even consider aspiring to a law school education due to cost or geography will now be able pursue their dreams. We now make it more possible for students to pursue a legal career devoted to the public interest and to the most vulnerable people in our communities.

"This action was made possible by a selfless and generous donation by the Southern New England School of Law, which has a quarter-century record of exemplary service to the community and is now making this amazing gift so that its mission can be taken to a higher level," Chancellor MacCormack said.

Last fall, the trustees of Dartmouth-based Southern New England School of Law, pointing to a desire to preserve their school's "historic mission" and commitment to legal education excellence and diversity, offered to donate their law school to the University of Massachusetts, with the total value of the donation estimated at $23 million.

After extensive study and review, the proposal to move forward and establish a public law program was approved by the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees, leading to today's program-approval vote by the Board of Higher Education.

With the public law program now approved, UMass Dartmouth is set to open its law school in September. Tuition and fees for in-state students will be $23,565.

Said Chancellor MacCormack: "As with any worthwhile venture, today's vote is the product of many people's effort and support. I want to thank President Wilson, the UMass Board of Trustees, and Commissioner Freeland and the Board of Higher Education, all of whom have demonstrated exemplary leadership and offered constructive feedback throughout this process, making a strong proposal even stronger. Many civic leaders, elected officials, students, alumni, and friends stood up for public higher education during this process, sending a loud and clear message that the University of Massachusetts and all of public higher education are strong forces for opportunity."

President Wilson also extended his thanks to "our many friends and supporters in this effort." He added: "I appreciate the vote of confidence that we have received from the Board of Higher Education and appreciate the many hours that Commissioner Freeland and his staff have invested in reviewing and improving this proposal. Chancellor MacCormack and the members of our Board of Trustees are also to be commended for their outstanding, courageous leadership. I also want to thank Gov. Patrick and Secretary Reville for studying this proposal and becoming key supporters. Gov. Patrick is a strong advocate for public higher education and has worked hard to bring opportunity to the South Coast."

"I now look forward to working with all parties as we move forward on this important project. This has been a lengthy and at times bruising struggle. Certainly, our quest to create an affordable public law school has drawn opposition. To those who have opposed this effort, my hope is that we can now work together in furtherance of legal education in the Commonwealth. I believe that moving forward in a constructive and collegial fashion is in the best interests of students, in the best interests of higher education and in the best interests of advancing the cause of justice," President Wilson added.

Said Chancellor MacCormack: "The faculty, students, and staff of UMass Dartmouth and Southern New England School of Law are now part of the same family. Teams from each institution are already working to assure a smooth transition for students and prospective students from Southern New England to the UMass Dartmouth law program."

A blue-ribbon advisory committee of academics, jurists, practicing attorneys and higher education experts is being formed to assist with transition-related issues. Current Southern New England students will be invited to transfer into UMD LAW. New applicants will be treated as applicants to UMD LAW.

Information on the transition will be updated regularly at and at Questions can also be addressed to or 508-998-9400.

Contact: Robert P. Connolly, 617-548-0238; John Hoey, 508-264-5920


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