ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The University of New Mexico School of Law, like nearly all other American law schools, is weathering a dramatic drop in student applications, but it is weathering it well, said outgoing Dean David Herring.
In line with – but not as severe as – the five-year national 60 percent drop, UNM’s law school had a 30 percent, five-year drop in applicants through fall 2015, according to Herring, who addressed the Albuquerque Bar Association monthly lunch Tuesday.
While this shrinking is prompting significant shifts at other universities around the nation, including faculty layoffs and forced enrollment reductions, UNM’s enrollment is steady and the school has even considered hiring staff or adding programs.
“We’re sort of the oasis in legal education,” Herring said.
The reasons, Herring and others say, are UNM law school’s historically steady and small enrollment of about 115, its low cost and its focus on experiential learning.
Recent graduate Monica Newcomer-Miller, who moved her family to Albuquerque in 2012 from Goshen, Ind., agrees.
“A large part of it was the cost. It was cheaper to come to New Mexico and pay out-of-state than stay in Indiana and pay in-state for three years,” Newcomer-Miller said. “And the clinical law program was also a draw for me.”
Newcomer-Miller said she had a local job lined up when she graduated in May with a focus on immigration law.
She’s not alone in her praise of the school.
A recent industry ranking report moved the school up four spots to reach 18th for 2015. The report also shows students giving the school an A+. UNM’s law school has the lowest tuition and the highest job placement rates of closely-ranked schools, according to the report and data from the American Bar Association. UNM’s law school tuition is about $16,000 a year compared to closely ranked schools’ tuition ranging from $23,000 to $54,000. And job placement is about 97 percent.
All of this from a small school.
When Herring first came onboard two years ago, the school was the fourth-smallest student enrollment law school in the nation. It is now the 18th smallest, but not because it has grown but because others have shrunk, Herring said.
“New Mexico has an edge,” Herring said. “A lot of schools want to be New Mexico.”