HUNTINGTON -- Last year, Marshall University announced its desire to pursue its own law school.

Not surprisingly, our Legislature accepted the West Virginia University College of Law's recommendation that it retain its monopoly as West Virginia's "only publicly funded" law school.

Thus, the entire state's access to professional academic opportunity was suppressed by their fear of competition.

WVU College of Law's overall rating dropped to fourth tier in the most recent graduate school rankings compiled by US News and World Report.

Even with the advantages of monopoly, their performance fails to be at an acceptable level. Of the top 10 law schools, all have intrastate competition. Within the top 100, only two have intrastate monopolies.

WVU College of Law now requests $12 million in extra funding, claiming it cannot compete with institutions from surrounding states. Conveniently, leaders there use their declining standing to demand more funding and further suppress academic competition and opportunity at other state institutions.

Sadly, I fear our Legislature will not hold them accountable for their poor performance and happily give them more good money to spend badly.

Intrastate academic monopoly has not helped improve their academic performance. It only protects program administrators from accountability and those striving to keep the rest of our state's higher education system inferior to that of WVU.

Our allowance of such protectionism suppresses educational opportunity and our citizen's ability to improve the overall standard of living.

Instead of further funding faltering operations, we should demand academic competition among state institutions. Competition for students and dollars would force the WVU College of Law to raise its performance level and allow more educational opportunity for state students.

Without it, the present cycle of rewarding failure assures the further deterioration of their national standing, while hindering growth and opportunity for our citizens and other state schools.

Williams is a Huntington resident and a second-year student at Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va.

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