By ZACH BERNARD & LISA RYAN
Indiana Tech Law School announced Monday it will officially close in June, after four years of operation and a loss of $20 million.
In a statement, Indiana Tech President Dr. Arthur Snyder says that the law school has not seen enough of an increase in demand by prospective students to continue operating. Indiana Tech was given approval to offer a Juris Doctor degree program in December 2012, despite concerns of low enrollment in other law schools around the state.
The school was built to accommodate 350 students, with 100 anticipated for the first class in 2013. However, only 28 students enrolled. While that number has gone up over the past few years, demand for the program still isn’t where Indiana Tech wants it to be. Currently only 71 students are enrolled.
Genna Hillgenbrink is one of those students. She’s a first year law student at Indiana Tech, and she chose the school because it seemed like a more affordable option. Now, Hillgenbrink says she has an $8,000 loan and feels like she wasted her time and money.
“We feel betrayed in a lot of ways, because we were promised,” Hillgenbrink said. “We were promised that the school would be open, we were promised we would have a place to learn, and that was all yanked away from us.”
The school had just recently received a two-year provisional accreditation in March after having been denied accreditation in 2015.
April Ziffer, another first-year Indiana Tech law student, says she knew the school faced challenges. She was accepted to other law schools closer to her home in Baton Rouge, Lousiana, but Ziffer says Indiana Tech recruited hard for her. They flew her to Fort Wayne twice and gave her a scholarship she couldn’t refuse. She blames the school for making commitments it couldn’t keep.
“When you make so many promises that are not substantial, and they sound so real, so real even the faculty and deans that I spoke to believed it, it’s really just heartbreaking,” she said. “You can’t describe it in any other way.”
Ziffer says her parents’ house was destroyed in flooding that swept through Louisiana this year, so now, along with many other Indiana Tech law students, she’s not sure where she will go.
“It really is heartbreaking to think that I tried to do everything right, I asked all of the right questions before I came here and committed, and things still went wrong,” Ziffer said.
Indiana Tech faced more challenges than just accreditation. A few months after Indiana Tech’s law school received provisional accreditation, only three out of 12 new graduates passed the bar exam.
The school will cease operation in June. Students in their final year can complete their degree with Indiana Tech, while first and second year students can begin transferring to other schools starting in January.