Campbell Law School to offer flexible option for students

jstancill@newsobserver.comDecember 11, 2013 

— Starting next fall, Campbell Law School will allow students to enroll part time for a slower path to graduation.

The Raleigh-based law school announces its new “Campbell Flex” program Wednesday, which will give students a more flexible schedule as they work toward their law degree in five or maybe six years.

The program is aimed at professionals or people with family obligations who otherwise couldn’t pursue law school, said the school’s dean, Rich Leonard.

“Historically,” Leonard said, “if you wanted a law degree, you had to drop everything and go three years on a full schedule.”

He said he’d heard from more and more people who want to go through law school at a more leisurely pace.

Students will be able to take the first-year curriculum over a two-year period, and they’ll be charged half the $36,500 annual tuition each year. Then, after completing the first-year course load, students can take stock and decide whether they want to continue part time or finish up the degree as a full-time student. Tuition will be pro-rated if they choose a slower pace, Leonard said.

The part-timers will be taught by the same faculty and will attend regular, daytime classes with other students. Students must take at least five credit hours each fall and spring, and all requirements must be completed within seven years.

Most law schools require a three-year, full-time commitment. N.C. Central University in Durham offers an evening program with classes three nights a week for four years on a year-round basis.

Law school is becoming a less attractive option for many because of climbing student debt and an uncertain job market. Nationally, applications for this fall’s entering class were down 12.3 percent – the third straight year of decline, according to the Law School Admission Council.

In September, the American Bar Association’s Task Force on the Future of Legal Education issued a call for changes in the pricing, funding and accreditation of the nation’s law schools. A report from the panel said schools should innovate with new programs and re-engineer their tuition practices.

The report said the U.S. law school system “faces considerable pressure because of the price many students pay, the large amounts of student debt, consecutive years of sharply falling applications, and dramatic changes, possibly structural, in the jobs available to law graduates.”

Leonard said universities in general are trying to figure out new ways to accommodate prospective students rather than setting rigid rules. Business schools, for example, have for years offered alternative pathways toward degrees with weekend and part-time programs.

“I think it’s just where higher education is going right now,” Leonard said.

Campbell’s law school moved from the university’s main campus in Buies Creek to downtown Raleigh in 2009. This fall, there were 834 applicants for admission to the law school’s first-year class, and 121 enrolled. Total enrollment is 422, Leonard said.

The primary motivation of the new flexible track is not to bring in more students, Leonard said, “but if it does, that would be great.”

Campbell will hold an information session on the new program Dec. 19. For more information, go to http://law.campbell.edu/flex/

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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