Today, TaxProf Blog reports the the Catholic University of America, is trimming its budget by 20 percent because of declining law school enrollment:

The Tower:  Law School Enrollment Dropoff Causes Departmental Budget Cuts:

Catholic University will cut operational expenditures by 20% under a proposal by the Provost, a move that is the result of a decline in revenue from law school enrollment.

Earlier this year, the Provost asked deans from the University to trim down their operational expenditures for the next fiscal year by 20%.  This decision has come following a decline in revenue from decreasing law school enrollment – a challenge that is being experienced by universities nationwide.

Professor Glenn Reynolds, based on the news, has the following “Higher Education Bubble” analysis:

Yes, law schools are the canary in the coal mine for the higher education bubble — but because they’re also cash cows that subsidize the rest of the campus, their problems are also part of the bubble bursting elsewhere. The notion that the law schools’ problems won’t affect the rest of the university is wishful thinking.

And, a friend of TaxProg Blog notes:

My suspicion is that law schools will close when they appear to need long term subsidization. … [W]hen you read most schools tenure guidelines as an implied contract, it starts to jump out that cost cutting would be extraordinarily hard in any department – with seniority rules, the need to show financial crisis etc. The easy out is actually to “pull the plug” on the whole department. That is why I think a few colleges could quite abruptly make the decision to simply close the law school.

I do find amusing the idea that some professors have that everyone will take a nice round 10% pay cut. You never can really sell an across the board pay cut – someone always has alimony, kids in school, impecunious parents, a big mortgage, and if it is hell to make it stick. Look how fast law firms push out partners having a bad year…

My own sense of the situation, which I have expressed before, is that when the first reputable college jumps and announces that its law school is closing there will be a rising wave of followers. The interesting question is how far are some schools from that point – if enrollment is way down in August/September it could start sooner than many people think.