Wednesday, May 13, 2009

UNT Law to Dallas

The Texas House follows the lead of the Texas Senate in approving the creation of a new law school in Dallas, to be run by the University of North Texas:

Dallas will be home to the state's next public law school under a bill that won tentative House approval today.

However, budget woes mean funding for the law school remains uncertain, at least for the next two years. At that point, officials could come back to the Legislature again for funding, or seek tuition revenue bonds instead.

Still, North Texas lawmakers said simply getting approval for the University of North Texas Law School – which already passed the Senate – is a great achievement. This is the third legislative session in which they've pushed for it.

They've had to make Dallas' case over the requests of other regions for graduate schools, and over the recommendations of Texas' Higher Education Coordinating Board, which said there's no urgent need for a law school in North Texas.

North Texas lawmakers vehemently disagree. They say that while the region has two private law schools – at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth – there's no option for students who can't afford private school tuition.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area is the largest in the country without a public law school. Houston, meanwhile, has two, while Austin and Lubbock each have one.

Unfortunately, both sides have a legitimate point. In fact it's a bit of an understatement to say there's no "urgent need" for another law school right now; more law school graduates is only a bad thing for the legal community, which in the wake of the recession we're enduring is experiencing massive layoffs. At the same time it's true that Dallas could use a public law school, given that the only options are expensive private schools which aren't affordable to students who can only obtain federally subsidized student loans. And since the new school isn't actually funded yet, it'll be awhile before any budding attorneys are churned out. Maybe by then, the legal market will be in a growth cycle once more.

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