Struggling San Francisco law school cuts class sizes, waives tuition

  • Golden Gate University School of Law cut its new class by 67%
  • School at risk of losing American Bar Association accreditation due to low bar pass rates

(Reuters) – Golden Gate University’s law school has significantly reduced the size of its freshman class and provided full scholarships to all new full-time JD students this fall in a bid to improve graduation rates. pass the bar, reduce graduate debt and maintain accreditation.

San Francisco Law School intentionally enrolled just 21 new full-time JD students and 24 part-time students, down from 103 and 42, respectively, last year, Dean Colin Crawford said after the school announced the initiative on Thursday. This equates to a 67% reduction in new students compared to a year ago.

All new full-time students receive scholarships covering three years of tuition, currently set at $52,500 per year, while about half of new part-time students also receive free rides, Crawford said. He said he doesn’t know of any other law school that has eliminated tuition for an entire class of students.

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Golden Gate has struggled with dismal pass rates on bar exams for years. Its first pass rate on the July 2021 exam in California was 38%, the lowest among the state’s 18 American Bar Association-accredited law schools. The ABA warned the school in November 2021 that it was not meeting an accreditation standard requiring at least 75% of a school’s graduates to pass the bar within two years of leaving campus. .

The introduction of a smaller class helped raise the median Golden Gate Law School Admissions Test score from 151 to 153 this year, Crawford said. Officials hope that by enrolling fewer students with stronger academic credentials, giving them better access to faculty, and doubling the number of staff dedicated to bar prep, bar exam pass rates will be better for all current students, he added.

“We wanted to deliver a solution that was true to Golden Gate’s mission of access and opportunity, but that could also overcome the bar hurdle and be a model of what education should be,” said Crawford.

The reduction in student numbers and the addition of full scholarships means the law school will initially operate with a deficit, Crawford said. But revenue from a year-long master’s degree in law launched this fall and the planned addition of a bachelor of arts in law for Golden Gate undergraduates — both taught by the law school — are expected to create new sources of revenue to offset lost tuition fees, he said.

Promising students in these programs may be offered full scholarships to continue their studies in the JD program. The school did not reduce the size of its faculty, but moved law professors to teach in the new programs, Crawford said.

Read more:

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Karen Sloane

Thomson Reuters

Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools and legal affairs. Contact her at

Nancy I. Romero