New England Law downsizing enrollment, faculty size

John O’Brien, previously the highest paid dean in the nation, will take a 25 percent pay cut this year, amid enrollment cutbacks and faculty buyouts at New England Law | Boston.

Its part of the school’s effort to stay ahead of the curve.

“Looking ahead, New England Law, like most law schools, anticipates fewer applications and smaller classes for the foreseeable future as a result of national trends,” said Patrick Collins, director of communications and marketing at the stand-alone law school. “The school is positioning itself for those realities.”

O’Brien’s salary will drop from $867,000 to around $650,000 a year. They faculty buyouts would go into effect for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“The Board of Trustees has proposed a generous incentive plan for voluntary separation by some faculty members, to take effect at the beginning of the new academic year,” Collins said. “The final number of participants in the plan will depend on faculty interest, enrollment projections, curricular needs and other institutional requirements.”

Faculty members with 15 or more years of service are eligible for the buyout. There are 20 faculty members who are eligible for the buyout.

The law school admitted fewer students for the incoming first-year class in 2013, and plans to continue to accept smaller class sizes. It has 956 total students this year, down from 1,132 in 2010, the spokesman said. Collins said the school is not currently facing a financial crisis, but has taken steps to meet the challenges the future is almost certain to bring. It has a $70 million endowment and $37.1 million in revenue for this fiscal year, he said.

“The school is in strong financial shape. It has balanced its 2013 budget and has a healthy endowment,” Collins said.

Collins said the law school has also reduced its administrative staff by seven positions through attrition and reallocation. It has frozen wages and reduced non-academic spending.

“We’re ahead of the curve in choosing to become smaller,” Collins said. “We are proactively and strategically planning a smaller school that will continue to provide students with the teaching, mentoring and experiential learning opportunities that make a great law school education. Virtually all law schools nationwide will have to address the consequences of having fewer applicants and lower enrollments.”

Despite the downsizing, Collins said the law school would continue to offer a wide array of programming for students.

“By becoming smaller, the school will be in a position of strength to choose the students we want, to offer them an education that includes excellent teaching, experiential learning opportunities and mentoring and to put them in the best position to get jobs,” Collins said.

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