The dean of the University of Baltimore law school wants to reduce its evening program, triggering concern from some alumni and professors that the move could deny working students the opportunity to pursue a law degree.
UB law Dean John Sebert said the shift of students from night to day would free professors to offer a broader range of courses to all students. He also noted that the school would maintain one of the largest evening programs of any public law school in the country.
Under the proposal, next fall's first-year evening class would drop from 130 students to 80 students. In turn, 45 more students would be admitted to each new class for the day program. School officials believe there are approximately 40 evening students each year who would rather be part of the day program.
All told, there would be roughly 650 students enrolled during the day and nearly 300 part-time students at night. That's equivalent to a drop of only eight full-time students but a sharp swing in enrollments between night and day.
"If this leads to them not having a night law school, that would be a shame," said Neil Schechter, chairman of the recruiting committee at Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander. "I've had friends and colleagues who went through the program and were given opportunities to continue a career while they looked at a new one."
Mr. Sebert acknowledged the move would significantly change the shape of the law school, which has historically provided access to the legal profession for students who hold jobs or cannot afford to attend law school full-time. Yet Mr. Sebert said the move represented a better use of existing resources -- not a precursor to closing the evening division.
The change would "stabilize if not improve" the credentials of each entering class, Mr. Sebert wrote in a memorandum to part-time professors, because the day program is more selective.
Applications are down from a recent high of 2,922 to 2,294 this year at UB, mirroring a national decline, and the school's first-year enrollments stand at an eight-year low.
"The credentials of our entering classes are back to the level they were in the fall of 1989," Mr. Sebert wrote in the memorandum. "It is unrealistic to expect that the law school can continue to enroll an entering class of 330 students who will have sufficiently good prospects of success in law school and the profession."
A vote on the measure by faculty members initially scheduled for the end of October has been put off until the middle of this month.
While the faculty's formal support is not required for the move, Mr. Sebert said he would not proceed without it.
The tradition of evening education runs deep for University of Baltimore law students. The law school was founded as a private evening school in 1925 and added a daytime program in 1969, according to the school's catalog. UB graduates dot the city's legal landscape.
A proposal two decades ago to close the evening program at the University of Maryland law school, the only other law school in the state, raised enormous outcry at that downtown campus.