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High school students and their parents tour the University of South Dakota campus in Vermillion on April 15. USD said Friday it will study whether to move its law school from the Vermillion campus to Sioux Falls.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal

VERMILLION, S.D. – The University of South Dakota said Friday it will form a task force to study moving the state’s only law school from the Vermillion campus to Sioux Falls to help boost enrollment.

Across the nation law schools have reported up to a 40 percent drop in applicants since 2009. Some law schools have relaxed entrance standards in order to fill seats, resulting in fewer graduates passing the bar exam. Others, like USD, continue to seek quality applicants over quantity, even if it means smaller classes and a budget shortfall.

“Neither strategy is sustainable long term,” USD President James W. Abbott said in a statement Friday. “It has been suggested that relocation of the law school to Sioux Falls may result in an increase in the number of qualified applicants.”

South Dakota House Speaker Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, will chair the Special Law School Task Force. Mickelson is a USD undergraduate who earned his law degree at Harvard University. Twelve additional members will be appointed to the broad-based task force.

USD's School of Law, founded in 1901, educates most of the state’s lawyers and judges, filling spots in private law firms and in public legal practice.The school's law school students represent 27 states and more than 80 undergraduate colleges from across the nation.

The University of South Dakota already operates a campus in Sioux Falls, the state's largest city. Located on the campus of Sanford Health and the Sanford/USD Medical Center, it houses USD's medical school administration and clinical departments, as well as some other programs.

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