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Valparaiso Law School pens deal with Tennessee university to possibly relocate

Wesemann Hall at the Valparaiso University Law School.

VALPARAISO — The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has rejected a plan to move Valparaiso University's law school to Middle Tennessee State University.

The commission's voted 8-5 Monday to deny the transfer of VU's struggling law school to the Tennessee college's Murfreesboro campus.

VU's board of directors and the Middle Tennessee State University board of trustees announced recently they had approved an agreement to transfer the law school and create a College of Law at MTSU.

"THEC'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," MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee said in a news release.

"We thank our friends at Valparaiso for their generous offer to transfer its School of Law, which would have represented a significant multimillion-dollar gift to the state of Tennessee," McPhee said. "And we are sorry that our citizens will be deprived of the opportunities that this college of law would have provided because of concerns about competition by the state's two existing public law schools."

Valparaiso President Mark Heckler earlier praised the work of the "dedicated teams from Valparaiso and MTSU that have worked diligently during many months" to ready the proposal, according to a news release.

Heckler hinted of such a transfer nearly a year ago when he gathered law school students and staff together in November 2017 to announce the Valparaiso law school was no longer financially stable and would be making changes, including ending new enrollment and searching for a partner or relocating the school to an under-served area.

"We have been in discussions with Valparaiso University since November of 2017, and I tell you this because I want to make clear that we have gone to great lengths to assure that this opportunity is in the best interests of MTSU, the city of Murfreesboro and the citizens of Middle Tennessee," McPhee said prior to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission's decision.

"I am truly grateful for their work, along with the continued dedication of the Valparaiso Law School faculty and staff, who we hope will have the opportunity to continue their good work together," Heckler said. "Throughout this arduous process, our goal has remained clear: to ensure the proud legacy, values and core ethos of Valparaiso University Law School remain in place for future generations."

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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.