UNIVERSITY PARK Penn State and The Dickinson School of Law might end their relationship, following an unsuccessful attempt to expand the law school to include a University Park campus.
Penn State issued a statement Friday saying the two institutions are looking into severing their seven-year-old affiliation and creating a partnership between the law school and Dickinson College, the law school's neighbor in Carlisle.
The announcement came as the Penn State board of trustees met to, among other things, approve a university budget request to the state for $344.8 million, including $10 million specifically for the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
An affiliation between Dickinson College and the law school would address Carlisle residents' concerns about keeping the school in town and would provide the law school with the benefits of a larger institution, Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said.
"It's a mutual decision, really," he said. "We think it makes some sense for Carlisle. Clearly, many of the board of governors felt it's important to have one location and have that location in Carlisle. We have seen the trend in higher legal education, clearly, overwhelmingly, is to have law schools affiliated with larger institutions so that students and faculty can get involved in interdisciplinary studies and research."
If, after examination, the affiliation is deemed sound, Dickinson College would begin negotiations with Penn State, she said.
Penn State and The Dickinson School of Law began the process of affiliation with Penn State in 1997 and became fully affiliated three years later. Though Dickinson College and the law school are located next to each other and have had close ties, they have operated as separate entities for at least the past 90 years.
The law school's board of governors would have to give its approval for the change to occur. Board Chairman LeRoy S. Zimmerman said he learned of the discussions only recently and wanted more details before weighing in.
"Certainly Dickinson College has an outstanding reputation as a liberal arts college. And there is a lot of history as well as proximity that would be a positive. But there are plenty of issues to discuss before anyone wants to enter into a second marriage," Zimmerman said.
The move comes about a month after the law school's board of governors voted to table a Penn State proposal to open a second law school campus at University Park and renovate the Carlisle campus. Instead, the law school's board of governors voted to work with the university to improve the Carlisle campus at an estimated cost of $50 million.
Penn State had offered to pay $60 million to build a law school facility at University Park. The dual-campus proposal was put forth after an administrative proposal to move the law school to University Park and keep a satellite campus in Carlisle met with strong opposition.
University officials had argued that having a law school at University Park would improve Dickinson's rankings, help it attract top faculty and students, and address a lack of space in Carlisle.
Speaking to the board of trustees Friday, Penn State President Graham Spanier said the university viewed the board of governors' decision to table the dual-campus proposal as a rejection.
Penn State, as part of the proposal, wanted to reserve the right to close the Carlisle campus or turn it back over to the law school if, at some point after 10 years, the two-campus setup wasn't working. The board of governors opposed that plan.
Spanier also made a presentation of the university's request for state appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year to the board of trustees. The university is asking the state to restore its funding level to the $334.8 million it received in 2001-02 and add $10 million for the medical school.
Spanier said that if the state comes through with the requested $344.8 million, students who are residents of Pennsylvania would see a 5.8 percent tuition increase in 2005-06.
"Our overriding philosophy has been to be as frugal as we can but to maintain quality," Spanier said.
If the appropriation is lower than the requested amount, the tuition increase could be greater.
"State support is crucial for curbing tuition raises at Penn State," said Galen Foulke, president of the Undergraduate Student Government.
Anne Danahy can be reached at 231-4648. CDT reporter Chris Rosenblum and The Associated Press contributed to this article.