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Tennessee regulators reject Valparaiso law school move

Valparaiso University

VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) — Tennessee regulators rejected a plan to move Valparaiso University's struggling law school to Middle Tennessee State University, casting uncertainty on the future of the northwestern Indiana law school.

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission voted 8-5 Monday to deny the school's transfer to Middle Tennessee's Murfreesboro campus.

The two schools' governing boards had endorsed the transfer agreement earlier this month, nearly a year after Valparaiso announced that the private college's law school was facing severe financial challenges.

Valparaiso officials said in a statement that they were disappointed by the commission's vote, and would continue providing the opportunity for students currently enrolled in its law program "to complete their legal education through Valparaiso University Law School in a timely manner."

The statement did not address what future options remained for the law school, and school spokeswoman Nicole Niemi said Tuesday that the university had no additional comment.

The law school was founded in 1879 on Valparaiso University's campus in Valparaiso, about 15 miles southeast of Gary.

MTSU officials had championed the law school's proposed move to the Murfreesboro campus, saying that it would give students in central Tennessee the option to study law at a public university close to their home.

MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said in a statement after Monday's vote that there were "concerns about competition by the state's two existing public law schools."

Tennessee's public law schools reside at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and the University of Memphis in Memphis.

McPhee said the commission's decision "denies a legal education to Nashville-area students financially unable to attend an expensive, nearby accredited private institution or unable to relocate to a public institution hundreds of miles away in Knoxville or Memphis."

If the transfer had been allowed, the MTSU law school would have been the seventh in Tennessee.