Given its growing prestige and national reputation, WCL has outgrown its current facility at 4801 Massachusetts Ave. NW, where it has been since 1996 (in 195,000 square feet). The instructional spaces are undersized, library areas inadequate, faculty and administrative offices inferior, and student areas undersized and over utilized. Needing more space to accommodate current programs, the law school has been renting space (16,000 square feet) in three additional locations in the adjacent commercial and retail area.This text is a year old, so it's possible that in the interim somebody in the university or governmental hierarchy has noticed that two thirds of the school's graduates aren't getting legal jobs, and that the large majority of those who do get such jobs aren't acquiring employment which comes close to paying enough to justify the school's current, and rapidly rising, $70,000 per year cost of attendance (A debt financed law degree from AU will produce a $250,000 loan balance for current students. "And from there it will go up," as Virgil Sollonzo would say). Update: A commenter points out that as of May the building project was moving into the design phase, with construction expected to begin next summer. There's a curious lack of publicity regarding all this on the school's current web site.
To fulfill its needs, the proposal seeks approval of a fully integrated law school facility with some 310,000 square feet and parking for approximately 450 vehicles (including 400 below ground). The project has been designed and configured to support a possible student population of 2,000 and supporting resources for 500 faculty and staff. Currently, the law school enrolls approximately 1,770 students.
Note that AU's "growing prestige and national reputation" is likely to be affected negatively by the administration's decision this past admissions season to toss existing admissions standards out the window in order to fill the school's coffers with another $20 million in 1L tuition revenue (the entering class's median LSAT fell from the 86th to the 77th percentile).
Note also the transparent weakness of the justifications for expanding the school's physical plant by more than 50%, while increasing the size of its already far-too large student body:
"Instructional spaces are undersized." I bet everybody has a chair, and in any case your classrooms would have one third as many students in them if they only featured people who were going to get a job.
"Library areas are inadequate." Empires rise and fall, continents merge and separate, the great globe itself spins inexorably toward thermodynamic dissolution, but one thing in legal academia never changes: library areas are always inadequate, at least according to law library directors, who are remarkably adept at not noticing that no licensed attorney in the United States has consulted an actual legal book since November 17, 2004.
"Faculty and administrative offices [are] inferior." For some reason this reminds me of the passage in Anna Karenina where Oblonsky goes on a trip to Moscow to perform what Tolstoy describes as "the most important task a government official can undertake, that is, to remind his superiors of his existence."
"Student areas undersized and over utilized." It's costing these soon to be unemployed people $50K per year to enjoy these areas. How much will more luxurious accommodations cost them? This is a classic example of how absurdly negative sum -- for students and their families, of course, for faculty and administrators it's working out great -- the amenities arms race in higher education has become.
Paul Caron links to his own two-page summation of the problem in legal education here, of which AU's preposterous expansion proposal is a perfect illustration. (Caron's post also includes a link to a useful list of news stories and blog posts on the law school crisis).