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Despite troubles, Golden Gate University says law school won’t close

Pedestrians walk past a sign for Golden Gate University in San Francisco on June 21, 2023. | Jeremy Chen/The Standard | Source: Jeremy Chen/The Standard

After an existential vote in June, Golden Gate University said its struggling law school will stay open and fully accredited, for now. 

The 122-year-old nonprofit institution has been fighting to stay afloat in recent years amid the deteriorating condition of the surrounding Downtown neighborhood. The school said it is still determining its long-term viability, but administrators informed students in an email at the end of June that it would not close within the next school year. 

However, faculty have been advised that layoffs may take place down the line. 

“GGU Law will continue to operate during the academic year 2023-24 and beyond as necessary to ensure at a minimum that all currently enrolled and entering students will continue to receive their scholarships and be able to receive an ABA-accredited degree,” spokesperson Jenny McKeel said in an email to The Standard.

In June, students and faculty raised concerns about rumors that the university was considering shuttering the law school or giving up national accreditation in the wake of struggles to meet standards in recent years. The American Bar Association found Golden Gate University School of Law to be out of compliance for having low bar passage rates in 2021, prompting the school to substantially lower its admission rate starting in 2022.

The law school said this week that it will retain accreditation with the ABA. 

The school has struggled financially in recent years, but university leaders said a January 2022 plan to stay afloat by selling property fell apart due to the “precipitous devaluation” of Downtown commercial real estate.

The university declined to provide information on the current number of students and faculty at the law school, but Student Bar Association President Mohammed Jamal said there are about 200 students.

Jamal lamented the recent difficulties of the law school, which has a longtime reputation of educating prospective lawyers from working-class backgrounds and others who might not get into top schools. It’s also known to specialize in public-interest and environmental law. 

“Being a lawyer is a very privileged profession,” Jamal said. “It will be sad if Golden Gate University will have to close after more than 100 years.”