Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School to merge state campuses into one site

The Detroit News

The Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School plans to consolidate its state campuses into a single site in Lansing, officials announced Monday.

The board of directors for WMU-Cooley, which has other locations in Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids as well as one in Tampa, Florida, approved the measure to "take the next step to right-size the school's infrastructure," representatives said in a statement.

The Grand Rapids campus will stop operating on Aug. 31, 2021, pending approval by accrediting agencies, according to the release.

The WMU-Cooley Law Lansing campus.

The vote came nearly a year after WMU-Cooley approved merging its Auburn Hills campus with other Michigan locations. The administration initially planned to keep the campus open through December.

James McGrath, the school's president and dean, said "demand for a legal education continues to vacillate."

"We are focusing on providing a quality practical legal education to students who will truly diversify the legal profession," McGrath said.

He added: “As with many institutions of higher education, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly affected our decision making and continues to have an impact on our enrollment. We have made bold and sweeping changes this past year and a half to show our commitment to building a socially just future, while setting us on a path to better serve our students and the profession.”

Last year, WMU-Cooley announced it was reducing tuition by 21% for the 2020-21 academic year.

The law school was founded in 1972 by Thomas E. Brennan, a former Michigan Supreme Court chief justice. It was named after another state Supreme Court justice, Thomas Cooley, one of the first faculty members at the University of Michigan Law School, and boasts more than 20,000 graduates, according to its website.

“WMU-Cooley’s Board is committed to placing the law school in a position of strength as we continue to provide broad access to legal education,” said board chair Louise Alderson.