Law School Disruptor of the Week: The New UNT Dallas School of Law
Despite declining law school enrollment statistics nationwide, one school is going against the grain and defying the norm. The University of Northern Texas, Dallas School of Law’s inaugural class is shockingly large for a brand new law school–there are roughly 80 full-time and 40 part-time students enrolled so far. UNT Dallas Law’s success in recruiting students is due to a great tactic: offering low tuition rates. The new law school’s accomplishment reflects its mission to provide a legal education at a low cost.
A core goal of the UNT Dallas College of Law is keeping tuition and student debt low for all students to the extent consistent with meeting its educational goals. The organized bar and legal educators agree that the cost of legal education poses concerns for the profession and for legal education. High costs and debt loads reduce access to legal education, are often spread unevenly in relation to financial need, and shrink the horizon of opportunity. The UNT Dallas College of Law has a unique opportunity to respond to these challenges. We will not do this by reducing quality or taking short cuts. Rather, we will keep tuition low by focusing on excellence in our educational mission and by not incurring costs that are not critical to that mission.
The law school boasts the lowest tuition costs in the state of Texas–$12,540 for in-state tuition, and $24,000 for out-of-state. See how these prices compare to other Texas law schools:
UNT Dallas Law is taking a whole new approach to the law school industry. Not only does UNT Dallas Law offer shockingly low tuition rates and grant need-based scholarships, but they also target a unique audience. Unlike most other law schools, UNT Dallas School of Law focuses on attracting the “nontraditional” law student–older students, often with families of their own, who are returning to get that legal degree they couldn’t afford right after college.
UNT Dallas Law aims to make every moment in law school a valuable learning experience. Students must complete extensive legal writing and research courses and practice foundation courses. Students are encouraged to select specialties in their upper-level curriculum such as family law, business association, and evidence. As part of the upper-level curriculum, students are encouraged to engage in practicums, externships, and clinics.
According to Dallas News, UNT Dallas Law seeks to train lawyers who will work in the public sector “to represent the middle class, small companies and other groups.” Last week I wrote about the need for legal public service in our country. UNT Dallas School of Law is doing an excellent job by pinpointing the lack of public service in the legal industry and encouraging its students to pursue careers in that field.
By working around the norms for tuition and focus in law school, UNT Dallas Law could actually make a mark on legal education practices. Other schools are also working to lower tuition, but their rates pale in comparison to those of UNT Dallas Law’s. Despite what Above the Law has to say about building yet another law school in our nation, we should give UNT Dallas Law a chance. By providing students with an affordable education in a field that is seriously lacking legal professionals, UNT Dallas Law is already ahead of the curve. Its location also puts it at a great advantage–cities with dense populations usually have a greater need for legal aid.
The institution may not yet be ABA accredited but that’s completely normal for new law schools. According to the ABA’s Law School Accreditation Process, institutions cannot apply until they have been operating for at least one full year; UNT Dallas Law is in the process of welcoming its first class ever. So, I say give UNT Dallas Law a chance–an affordable, practical legal education that targets the inadequate legal aid for those who can’t afford Ivy-leaguers may be just the remedy our nation needs.
Natasha Paulmeno (@natashapaulmeno)
Featured image courtesy of [tylerhoff via Flickr]