I am writing in support of a law school for Marshall University and for southern West Virginia.

It seems that any further education we offered would only help our citizens, our children, and future citizens. I don't see how more educational opportunities could be negative. Many have spoken against the idea, which is unfortunate for our area.

I grew up in southern West Virginia, an economically deprived area. I attended public schools in Logan County. Then, I attended Marshall University, which was more affordable for us. I graduated from the School of Medicine and now practice here in Huntington. I always will appreciate the chance Marshall gave me.

I can understand the hesitation in providing more lawyers. Really. Some believe they are the root of most of our problems. But I cannot understand the idea of depriving our young people of the chance. If the market does not support them, they may still leave, as they will anyway the way things now stand, but will still have better lives for having an education.

Yes, there are other needs in West Virginia, such as health care professionals. There already are two nursing schools in Huntington. We hardly should dictate to people what their careers should be; we should support them in whatever their dreams are. You and I are not quitting our jobs to become nurses. I fulfilled my dream with the education offered at Marshall. I think all West Virginians should be given that chance.

My husband always has dreamed of becoming a lawyer. He now commutes weekly to Virginia to attend the Appalachian School of Law, which is two hours away. Morgantown is about four hours away. There are many in his class who would have loved to stay in West Virginia or move here for some time, had there been more opportunity in this state.

According to the Law School Admissions Council Web site, there are 7.6 million people in Virginia, and the state has six ABA accredited law schools and more than 1,100 first-year positions. This means roughly 156 spots per million in population. For Ohio's 11.5 million people, there are 162 first-year law spots per million. For Kentucky there are 120 opportunities per million people, and in Pennsylvania, 132 spots per million.

There are 1.8 million people in West Virginia. There is one law school. That gives West Virginia 96 first-year law spots per million citizens. This is not an overwhelming abundance for our young people, who will have to go to one of our neighboring states for an education. At least, the best and brightest will have to leave.

I urge our leaders to stand up for education for all West Virginians and support a law school at Marshall University. There could be focus on constitutional law in honor of our esteemed Senator Robert Byrd; or focus on environmental law in association with our coal industry.

The only thing lacking is vision.

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Ellen Thompson, MD
e.thompson@marshall.edu
2828 1st Avenue Suite 100
Huntington, WV 25702

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