Paul L. Caron

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Are Undergraduate Law Degrees The Next Big Thing?

Arizona Logo (2019), Are Undergraduate Law Degrees The Next Big Thing?:

At the end of June, the State University of New York at Buffalo Law School announced its plans to launch an undergraduate degree in law, taught by the law faculty. It will become just the second such program in the United States. ...

This got me thinking about the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, which became the first to offer an undergraduate law degree in the U.S. in 2014. The goal of the program is to expand access to legal education and help prepare students for law-adjacent careers, as well as allow them to explore whether they want to pursue a full law degree—the same reasons officials at Buffalo have said they are launching a B.A. in law. So are undergraduate law programs the wave of the future?

In order to better understand the potential of such programs, I reached out to Arizona law dean Marc Miller to find out how his five-year-old B.A. in Law is going. ... Here’s what he said: “The B.A. in Law program is a jewel. It has succeeded on every dimension we hoped, including being a dramatic pathway for diversity, broadly understood.” ...

  • The program enrolled about 1,200 students in the 2018-19 academic year. (For context, Arizona has about 340 J.D. students.) About 800 are in the U.S. with most completing the program in person on the Tucson campus, but about 100 people are taking the program fully online. Another 400 are in the [Ocean University of China in Quingdao] dual degree program. And 15 are in a second dual degree program offered with the American University of Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
  • Thus far, 60 percent of students in the B.A. program have been women, and 55 percent have been racially diverse. Additionally, a third identify as first-generation college students.
  • About 40 percent of the students from the early classes of the B.A. program have gone on to law school or other graduate-level education. That figure demonstrates that the program is designed to lead to a broad array of career possibilities, and not just to funnel students on to law school, according to Miller. ...

1,200 is a lot of students—that would be about the seventh largest among J.D. programs in the U.S. And that translates into a lot of tuition dollars. It’s not a coincidence that the B.A. program was announced in 2014, when J.D. enrollments nationwide were in a tailspin and law schools were slashing budgets right and left. I asked Miller how the B.A. program has performed from a financial standpoint. He said it has become “an important revenue generator for the law school.” But he added that the program would have been a good idea even at a time when the law school didn’t need to diversify its revenue streams. Are other schools going to follow suit? Miller suspects so.

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What are the employment outcomes for these BA graduates? And, similarly, what are they for MSL/MJ graduates? I hear words like "compliance" a lot when describing their opportunities, but I never hear actual numbers. I also have never heard why JD graduates being underemployed translates into greater demand for graduates of 1 year, non-professional law programs who can't take the bar. I would like to read some verifiable employment numbers. I suspect there's a reason that I never do.

Posted by: Tax Prof | Jul 11, 2019 11:48:03 AM

marvelous revenue source. big lecture classes, low-paid adjunct faculty, excellent surplus to support regular law program. B-schools have played the game for years.

Posted by: mike | Jul 11, 2019 11:36:04 AM