May 9, 2022
Empire College, the 62-year-old private Sonoma County institution that moved to shed its business school two years ago amid declining enrollment, is closing in on a planned merger with another private law school on the Central Coast.
Empire College is firming up a merger agreement with Monterey College of Law, officials from the two institutions said. The deal, expected to be finalized within a month, would make the Santa Rosa institution’s School of Law the third satellite campus and boost the Santa Cruz-based college’s enrollment by nearly one-third.
Since the closure of Empire College’s business school, the for-profit college has been dedicated exclusively to students pursuing law degrees.
“We believe that combining our talents and resources would be an appropriate merger for the two of us, as long as we can maintain the identity of the Empire College School of Law, maintain all of the professors that we currently have, maintain the administrative staff that we currently have, and ensure that our students, in effect, a see a seamless transition to towards their end goal, which is the Juris Doctor program,” said Roy Hurd, president of Empire College.
The law school started in 1971, a decade after the late Henry Trione founded Empire College in Santa Rosa. Currently, the law school has 70 students. If the merger is finalized as expected, it would be completed in July or August. In anticipation of that, the last cohort of Master of Law Studies degree students will be admitted this summer and move through the J.D. program, starting a three- to four-year changeover to a satellite campus, perhaps called Empire College of Law, Hurd said.
Empire College graduates make up about a quarter of the Sonoma County Bar, according to the school.