Can a community college student thrive in law school? Well, California is about to find out. Recent California legislation, which is entitled the Community Colleges Pathway to Law School Initiative, has partnered twenty-four community colleges with six in-state law schools and their undergraduate campuses to offer a smoother pathway to law school. Students’ community school credits will be transferable. Furthermore, they will receive counseling, tutoring, mentoring, networking opportunities, access to law school faculty, financial aid counseling and LSAT preparation. Additionally, when the students go to apply to law school, their application fees will be waived for the six law schools.
This sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Community college is far more affordable than an undergraduate degree, and the application waiver makes for a nice bonus. Not to mention, all of the opportunities that are provided to these students, such as the LSAT prep and networking opportunities, exceeds what most undergraduate students typically receive (unless they go about it themselves, expending their own time and/or money).
So, what’s the catch? Law school admittance is still not guaranteed. These students are applying to top California law schools and competing with students across the country. And, as the success level of this program hasn’t been tested, could they potentially be setting up community school graduates for a rude awakening? What are they missing by not following the traditional route? Arguably, undergraduate courses and schedules are more tedious than that of a community college. Considering that the difficulty of law school courses and schedules is double, if not triple, of that required for undergraduate classes, skipping this crucial step could be quite shocking. Further, if the reason for attending a community college over an undergraduate education was due to financial hardship, what will happen when they have to shell out some $100,000 to pay for tuition? Will community college courses be sufficiently competitive for scholarship opportunities with the schools and/or outside scholarship programs? Maybe not. And, in today’s legal job market, a debt that significant could drown any person.
What are your thoughts? Would you bypass a college degree for a community college education?