University of Alaska Anchorage and Willamette University College of Law have formed an innovative partnership to enhance law school opportunities for Alaska college students while addressing concerns about student debt. The schools have signed a memorandum of understanding to offer a “3+3 program” allowing students to complete a bachelor’s degree and a law degree in six years, rather than the usual seven.
The program is modeled on a similar partnership between Willamette law school and Oregon State University. Such programs allow students to complete their education more quickly, significantly reducing costs and student loan debt and providing students with an extra year of earning power.
Participating students will complete three years of undergraduate study at UAA and three years of law school at Willamette. Qualified UAA students from any major who participate in the program can apply for admission to the law school as soon as they have completed their required disciplinary credits, all of their general education credits and a total of 90 credits overall.
UAA pursued the program because, across the country, students are graduating with higher levels of educational debt than ever before. For students from low- and middle-income families, student loan obligations may be a significant factor in their ability to move on to graduate studies. The 3+3 program represents an innovative approach to this problem; such programs are becoming increasingly common among law schools in the United States. Willamette University, located in Salem, Ore., and founded in 1842, has a long history of educating young Alaskans. The law school, established in 1883, was the first in the Pacific Northwest. It is well-known for training Alaska’s lawyers. There are currently more than 150 Willamette law school alumni in Alaska.
Curtis Bridgeman, dean of Willamette’s College of Law, said, “We take seriously our role, both historically and currently, in educating Alaskans, and we’re really excited about this program.”
Through the 3+3 program, admitted students can enter law school before completing their undergraduate degree. After finishing their first year of law school, they can apply their law school credits toward completion of their baccalaureate degree, enabling them to graduate from UAA after their first year of law school.
Although modeled on Willamette’s partnership with Oregon State, the 3+3 program with UAA is unique. It requires participating students to return home to Alaska to participate in an externship or engage in some other practicum experience prior to graduation from law school. This requirement is designed to provide students with professional development training in their home state, familiarize them with Alaska employers and ensure they graduate with knowledge of Alaska law. The focus on practical-skills training follows a national trend toward emphasizing skills development in the law school curriculum.
For more information and program requirements, visit justice.uaa.alaska.edu, or contact Deb Periman, J.D., UAA Legal Studies Program Coordinator, at (907) 786-1125 or firstname.lastname@example.org.