Villanova Offers Free Ride To 50 Students

Villanova University School of LawWanted: Top 100 law school seeks 50 applicants with a minimum LSAT of 157 and a GPA of 3.6 or higher for full-ride scholarships worth nearly $39,000 annually. Applicants must be willing to re-locate to Philadelphia.

Can you imagine the stampede that an ad like this would cause? The Philadelphia Business Journal reports that the Villanova University School of Law is doing just that.

On Wednesday (Jan. 22), the university announced the launch of its “Innovative Scholars” program, which will fund an additional 50 full scholarships for the incoming class of 2014. The program, which is being funded by a $1.25 million dollar gift by Villanova alum Charles Widger, will double the number of Villanova Law students who receive free tuition.

A Larger Movement?

Villanova Law’s efforts reflect a larger movement to cut costs and prepare students for practice. A bill in Florida is pending that would forgive up to $44,000 in student debt for students who work as state prosecutors or public defenders. And the University of Iowa College of Law slashed tuition by 16.4% for fall 2014. With the ABA calling for greater practical skills training, you can expect more schools to follow Villanova’s lead.

According to the Villanova, the scholarships will be good for three years, provided the recipients maintain their academic standings. Villanova Law will also freeze annual tuition for the incoming class.

Tuition Frozen While Class Size Maintained

This cost is certainly welcome to Villanova Law students, whose graduate debt averages $113,283, a middle-of-the-pack burden that is still lower than state programs such as Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania according to the most recent data from U.S. News and World Report. Like most schools, Villanova Law has suffered from an oversaturated legal market, with only 59.9% of Villanova graduates able to land jobs within nine months of graduation (despite an enviable 91.9% first-time bar passage rate).

The Innovative Scholars program is part of a larger strategic plan established by Villanova Law. Despite the increase in scholarship, the school does not intend to increase incoming class size, which dropped from 220 to 162 students from 2012 to 2013. According to Villanova Law Dean John Y. Gotanda, this decrease is part of the school’s efforts to provide students with “more interaction with faculty.”

Drive To Develop Practical Skills

Along with making their program more affordable and increasing faculty attention to students, Villanova Law is also revising its curriculum so students can effectively practice law sooner. Last year, Dean Gotanda launched the Center for Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which is designed to provide hands-on experience in helping students understand the financial and operational aspects of running a business.

As part of this initiative, incoming students will be required to take two week-long, credit courses: Financial Literacy For Lawyers and Business Aspects of the Law. The former will prepare students to better represent clients, by exposing them to tools ranging from financial statements to property valuations. The latter, according to Dean Gotanda, will help students transition more quickly to the workforce by emphasizing practical knowledge often neglected by law schools: “…business structure — personnel, law firm economics, overhead, time sheets and revenue, budgeting, client pitches, and law practice management.”

In addition to these courses, Villanova Law is offering a Clinic for Law and Entrepreneurship, along with a joint Law and MBA program that has attracted 20 students in its first year.

To learn more about Villanova Law’s Innovative Scholars program, click here.