Back in 2013, it seemed the two-year law degree might be one thing that could change (or at least alter) legal education. The idea was picking up steam and excitement surrounded it. Schools such as Brooklyn Law School, Pepperdine University School of Law, and Northwestern University’s School of Law (to name a few) all had their own versions of the two-year degree.
This past week, however, Northwestern announced the closing of their two-year program. The end of the seven-year-old program was announced on Northwestern’s website by Dean Daniel Rodriguez on Oct. 2. As reported by the Crain’s Chicago Business Journal, despite the school’s best efforts, “the applicant pool has not grown to the extent necessary to achieve this aspiration,” Rodriguez wrote in the announcement.
“It is apparent that the substantial growth necessary to achieve our intended size, a size that justifies its resource requirements, is highly unlikely in the near term,” Rodriguez continued. “Should circumstances change, we remain open to resuming this program at a future date.”
The degree debuted in 2008 with a class size of 27, but has failed to gain much steam and enrolled just 16 students in this year’s class. Rodriguez said at least 40 students needed to be enrolled in each class to continue the program. The degree, which is five semesters long, with one coming during the summer, could be started again. Rodriguez told Crain’s the legal climate for the two-year degree would be reassessed each year.
Rodriguez also told Crain’s that the “dagger in the heart” of the program was when the American Bar Association began requiring two-year programs to report LSAT scores. Before, applicants could gain admittance with a GMAT score, the common test for graduate business education.
The school believed they would mainly get applicants at a life stage where the two-year degree was the only or most viable option. Interestingly, the school told Crain’s they often ended up with traditional applicants who were hoping to gain entrance into Northwestern—a top program—that probably wouldn’t have been considered for the three-year program. Rodriguez guessed it had to do with the common belief non-traditional programs are easier to get into than traditional, three-year programs.
Another reason possible for the school having troubles enrolling a high enough number could be that the two-year program was not any cheaper than the full-time program. Many part-time or accelerated programs come at a smaller rate. Northwestern’s, however, did not.
Source: Crain’s Chicago Business Journal
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