UMass Law School Plans Wins Final Approval

The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education has approved a plan to create the state's first public law school.

Members of the board meeting in Bridgewater voted unanimously Tuesday on the proposal to incorporate the unaccredited Southern New England School of Law in Dartmouth into the University of Massachusetts system. Under the plan, the school would donate its campus to UMass-Dartmouth.

UMass President Jack Wilson was pleased with the vote. "This is something they've been trying to do for 50 years and finally we've created these opportunities for students," Wilson said. "Students in 44 other states already have the opportunity for a public law school. They'll now have that opportunity in the state of Massachusetts."

Supporters, including Gov. Deval Patrick, say the new law school will expand opportunities for students and be an economic boon to the university system.

But critics, including state Rep. James Miceli, say the move is too expensive. "I know budgets. I know money," Miceli said. "But it isn't me who's seeing these numbers don't work. These are people in the field who are saying these numbers make no sense whatsoever."

The Pioneer Institute, a Beacon Hill think tank, said the law school would require annual subsidies of up to $11 million.

Former state Attorney General Tom Reilly has said the school's funding mechanism is unconstitutional.

Despite the costs, the state's education secretary, Paul Reville, a member of the Board of Higher Education, supported the plan and believed it would pass.

"You know unless something surprising comes up at tomorrow's meeting," Reville said Monday, "I think there's a very favorable spirit on the board toward this."

The education board defeated a similar proposal five years ago. The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees has already approved the plan.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This program aired on February 2, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



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