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FAQs on Separate Accreditation

The Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University has announced that the Council of the American Bar Association's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (the ABA) has approved the University’s proposal to operate two independent and fully accredited law schools: Penn State Law at University Park and Dickinson Law in Carlisle, Pa. 

The decision by the ABA allows Penn State to develop the respective strengths of its University Park and Carlisle law schools. The two campuses, which have operated together as a single law school since 2006, will begin to operate as independent law schools starting with the classes admitted in fall 2015. Both schools will offer three-year J.D. programs and graduate law degree programs. The plan was endorsed by the faculties at both campuses.

Having two separately accredited law schools will provide applicants with clearer options for legal education at Penn State and allow the faculty at each school to develop an individualized curriculum that builds on the strengths of each school. Each school will remain part of Penn State. 

Will each school remain part of Penn State?


Will both schools be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA)?


How will the separate law schools be identified?

Degrees and diplomas from the two law schools will be in the name of The Dickinson School of Law of The Pennsylvania State University but will clearly reflect their independent and separately accredited status. Both campuses will refer to their affiliation with Penn State and Dickinson School of Law, but in general the Carlisle school will be known as Dickinson Law and the University Park school will be known as Penn State Law.

Who will lead the two schools?

Each school will have separate deans and separate administrations. Gary Gildin will serve as interim dean for Dickinson Law in Carlisle; James W. Houck will serve as interim dean for Penn State Law in University Park and, as interim dean, will also continue to oversee operations of the unified school. The University will commence national searches for permanent deans in the 2014-15 academic year.

Is separate accreditation part of a plan to close one of the separate law schools?

No. Penn State has committed unprecedented resources to support the unified law school as well as the future separately accredited law schools in Carlisle and University Park. 

When will the transition to separately accredited schools take place?

J.D., LL.M., and S.J.D. students who will begin their studies in fall 2014 will not be affected by the change. Next year and throughout their law school experience, they will be students in a unified, two-campus operation. Students of the unified school may choose to attend in University Park or Carlisle and may transfer between campuses at the end of any semester after the first year, take AV electives, and participate in clinics, externships, law journals, moot court, and student organizations and activities at either location in the same manner as current students in the unified two-campus school. This change in operation will affect students who begin to study law in fall 2015 and thereafter.

How will the separation affect the status as an alumnus/a of the Dickinson School of Law alumni?

All graduates of the law school’s J.D. program before 2018, including graduates before the merger of The Dickinson School of Law and Penn State, will be welcomed and treated as graduates of both law schools and of Penn State University.

Beginning with the graduating J.D. class of 2018, graduates will be alumni of the law school they attend, as well as alumni of Penn State University.

Each school will begin accepting separate LL.M. students in fall 2015, who will graduate with degrees that reflect the separate and independent status of each school.

Will one of the two separate schools be higher ranked or have better job prospects than the other?

It is impossible to predict how any law school will fare in the rankings or with employment prospects in the future. Penn State is committed to providing a top quality legal education and student services at both of its law schools.

How will this impact the value of my degree?

Both law schools remain part of Penn State University and both will enjoy the full support of the University going forward. Preserving the integrity and quality of education, as well as the reputation of both law schools, will continue to be a priority.

Can I direct my gifts to a specific law school?

Yes. Alumni can choose to designate their gifts to Dickinson Law in Carlisle or Penn State Law in University Park and/or divide their giving between both law schools.

Will the two schools recruit and admit students separately?

Yes. The separate law schools will recruit and admit students separately based on admissions standards set by their respective deans and faculties.

Will the admissions criteria be the same at both law schools?

Not necessarily. The faculty and deans at each school will set admission criteria based on the mission and resources of that school.

Will students at both schools be able to pursue joint degrees from other colleges within Penn State University?

Yes. Joint degrees with other Penn State academic units in University Park and Penn State Harrisburg will continue to be available to students at both schools who meet the admissions and campus residence requirements of their law school and the other Penn State unit. Students interested in joint degrees should direct their specific questions to the separate schools’ admissions offices.

Will students admitted to one campus be able to transfer to the other campus?

Current students of the unified two-campus law school can transfer to the other campus at their option. After the change in operation to separate schools, a student who enrolls in one of the separate schools who wants to transfer to the other must submit an application for transfer and will be considered by that school for admission along with transfer applicants from other ABA law schools.

How will the separation affect the educational experience of students?

Each of the separate schools will offer its own curriculum designed and taught by faculty resident at that school. Over the next three transition years as unified school students complete their degrees, the separate faculties will increasingly teach exclusively separate school students in upper level courses, and decreasingly teach courses offered via AV between the campuses.  After separation, and by mutual agreement of the two schools, some upper-level courses will continue to be offered simultaneously via AV to students at both schools, and joint programs will continue to be available to students from both law schools (e.g., the Semester in Washington, D.C. Program and several international study opportunities). The two schools will each offer students a general interest law review opportunity, moot court teams, an SBA, and a range of student organizations and activities appropriate to the size and interests of the student bodies at each school.

Will the graduation requirements be the same for both law schools?

Not necessarily. Each faculty will establish its own curriculum, academic rules, degree requirements, and Honor Code. The Penn State Code of Student Conduct and other Penn State policies applicable to all Penn State students will apply to students at both law schools.

For additional information, please contact:

Lisa Powers, Director, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State,

Wyatt DuBois, Director Communications, Penn State Law,