According to Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, a law school is "one of the few things that have been missing from A&M for a very long time."
That era is coming to a close.
The board of trustees at Texas Wesleyan University, a small, private university in Fort Worth has approved a letter of intent that would allow it to enter into a partnership with A&M, creating what will be known as the Texas A&M School of Law at Texas Wesleyan University. The A&M System Board of Regents is expected to vote on the matter by Friday.
Under the agreement, A&M would give Texas Wesleyan $25 million and would assume ownership and control of Texas Wesleyan's existing law school. Texas Wesleyan would retain the law school building and the surrounding property, and A&M would pay about $2.5 million each year to lease the facilities. Faculty and staff of the new school would be A&M employees. Sharp told the Tribune he is confident the money can be raised from alumni and university support groups.
In addition to the A&M board, the proposed partnership must still be approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the American Bar Association before it can take effect, but neither Sharp nor Slabach anticipate anything getting in the way of making the transition to the new A&M-run law school by the end of the upcoming academic year in 2013.
Texas Wesleyan President Fred Slabach said the most significant change he expects students of the current law school to notice is an improved reputation. "Together, we are going to be able to quickly move this law school into the top tiers of all law schools in the nation," he said.
It's a 40-year agreement, but they anticipated that it would last well beyond that time frame. "We look forward to being in Fort Worth when my great-grandchildren are in the grave," Sharp said.
While it was Sharp who initially approached Slabach last October, the new law school will be under the purview of Texas A&M University's flagship campus, not the system. Sharp said that was where it belonged, and A&M President R. Bowen Loftin agreed. "If you look at the top universities — our peer institutions — most of them have a law school," Loftin said in a statement.
This is the latest in a rapid series of major announcements from A&M. Earlier this month, the system announced that it had secured a major federal contract to build a federal biosecurity center in College Station. That was followed by word that they were signing a multimillion-dollar contract to outsource some of the dining and support services at Texas A&M University.
"We've had some pretty dramatic announcements in the last 10 days," Sharp said, "but this one is going to be of more benefit to Texas A&M and the state of Texas than either one of the other two in the long term."