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Published in Economic Development

Western Michigan University, Cooley Law School to cut ties

BY Thursday, November 05, 2020 12:28pm

KALAMAZOO — Western Michigan University will cut ties with Cooley Law School, ending an affiliation that began seven years ago and was supposed to lead to further joint programs.

Citing how “hopes have not been realized,” university trustees today unanimously agreed to terminate a 2013 affiliation agreement with Lansing-based law school. The approval triggers a three-year process to formally end the law school’s affiliation with WMU, as required under the original agreement.

WMU Board Chairman James Bolger COURTESY PHOTO

When initiated, the affiliation was intended “to promote the institutions as they work together to increase access for our students who would be interested in expanding their higher educational opportunities,” WMU Board Chairman James Bolger said at today’s trustees meeting.

“As our relationship matured and evolved, the priorities of each school have shifted and the expected synergies of our 2013 vision were not fully realized,” Bolger said. “Our board has examined the future of these agreements with the desire that moving forward with each institution would allow that institution to improve their strategic vision and navigate their own respective future.”

The decision came after meetings over the summer to examine the affiliation, Bolger said. Those discussions led to the decision to end the affiliation.

“The affiliation with Cooley made sense at a time when new ventures for extending the University’s reach could be explored and given time to mature,” WMU President Edward Montgomery said in a news release issued by Cooley. “Today, the pandemic is impacting every aspect of our lives. It is transforming higher education in ways that will have lasting effects on our sector and WMU. As a result, we are focusing on our core mission as we chart a course for an even stronger post-pandemic WMU.”

The move follows a decision this past summer by Cooley Law School to close its Grand Rapids campus, housed at WMU’s graduate center in downtown, effective Aug. 31, 2021, and consolidate a campus in Auburn Hills into other locations.

“I appreciate WMU’s need to focus on its core mission during this period. WMU-Cooley is also refining its program in the face of COVID-19 and these efforts will expand upon our recent innovations,” Cooley Law School President James McGrath said in the statement. “Since my arrival last year, we have embraced modern teaching techniques, increased our admissions profile, decreased tuition by 21 percent, and consolidated our footprint into two campuses. The end of the affiliation will not affect our ability to continue to deliver a quality student experience as we have over the course of our 48-year history.”

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