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Penn State will work to re-unify its law schools

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A quick dive:

  • Penn State University is seeking to merge its separately accredited law schools into a single program, reversing a merger that took place eight years ago to save resources.
  • The single law school, consisting of Penn State Law and Penn State Dickinson Law, will retain the Dickinson Law name, use its campus in Carlisle, Pa., and be led by its current dean, Daniel Conway.
  • Pennsylvania President Neely Bendapudi, who has led the institution since May, recommended the move. She asks the newly formed group to study the unification plans. The university does not expect to make any personnel changes until that panel makes its final recommendations this spring.

Dive Insight:

Pennsylvania’s latest plans for law schools show that university mergers and acquisitions may be the beginning, not the end, of decades of change — an important point as increased competition among students drives M&A interest across all postsecondary institutions.

The Pennsylvania flagship first voted to acquire the Dickinson School of Law in 1997, when the law school was an independent institution based in Carlisle. This town is about 90 miles from Penn State’s main state college campus, but much closer to the state capital of Harrisburg.

Penn State opened a parallel law campus in State College and operated the institution as a single law school with two campuses from 2006 to 2014. Then in 2014, the American Bar Association approved the Penn State proposal to split its law school into two programs – Penn State Law on the main campus and Penn State Dickinson Law in Carlisle.

Now, just eight years later, the university is seeking to end that arrangement.

Combining the two schools would allow the university to focus its resources and remain competitive, according to message of the state of Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania Dickinson Law and Pennsylvania State Law have been centrally funded since their separate accreditation. These recommended changes will result in significant savings over time that can be redistributed to other academic units,” it said.

Dickinson Law Dean Conway will chair a committee that will review the merger plans. He will announce the merger recommendations at the end of the academic year and present the plan to the university’s board of trustees.

The recommendation panel will include students, staff and alumni from both Penn State law schools. He will seek the opinion of the university faculty senate.

The university has canceled its search for a new law school dean at Penn State’s main campus, saying the position is unlikely to exist in the future. Victor Romero, professor, will take over as interim dean on January 1.

Both law schools will continue to educate current students as well as students who will begin their studies in the fall of 2023.

Penn State will also explore new locations for its school of international affairs, which shares a location with Penn State Law. The search for a director of international affairs continues.

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