Gov. Ed Rendell announced Tuesday that he has released $25 million to help pay for renovations to the Penn State Dickinson School of Law's Carlisle campus.
That money will provide matching funds for the $10 million Penn State plans to spend on improvements to the Carlisle campus and another $10 million the university is raising. The state money will be administered through the Cumberland County Redevelopment Authority and is contingent on the university keeping the Carlisle campus open for at least 20 years.
Penn State and the law school's board of governors reached an agreement earlier this year that allows the university to open a second law-school campus at University Park. In that agreement, Penn State promised to keep the Carlisle campus open for at least 10 years.
Although Penn State administrators said they had no intention of closing the campus, the clause stoked fears of some members of the board of governors and Carlisle residents that the campus would eventually be closed.
According to a news release issued by Gov. Ed Rendell's office Tuesday, Penn State agreed to operate the full law school program in Carlisle for at least 15 years. After that, Penn State agreed to keep it open for at least another five years, unless one of the following happens: the law school's accreditation can't be saved unless one or both campuses are closed; the university can't recruit enough suitable students for both campuses; or a change in legal education from the current three-year structure takes place.
In those cases, "a change in the structure of (the) law degree program in Carlisle could occur" in the last five years of the agreement.
"This agreement represents a tremendous compromise that will ensure the Carlisle campus of Dickinson Law School remains a viable facility, while protecting our fiduciary responsibilities to the commonwealth and Penn State," Rendell said.
"This agreement demonstrates our collective long-term commitment to legal education in Carlisle," Penn State President Graham Spanier said in a written statement.
Under the agreement, Penn State would have to return the state money to the redevelopment authority if the university did close the Carlisle campus. In that event, the Dickinson Law School Association could take over the campus building and run an independent law school or find a new affiliation.
If the association chose not to operate the law school, Penn State could sell the building and place the proceeds of the sale in the law school's endowment.
Three members of the board of governors filed a suit in Cumberland County Court challenging the agreement reached between the university and the board of governors. The case is scheduled to begin May 18.