USF, Stetson partnership shortens time to law degree


A new partnership between USF and Stetson University’s College of Law will allow students interested in pursuing law school to save time — and tuition — in obtaining their JD degrees.

The “3 + 3 program,” signed into effect by USF President Judy Genshaft and Stetson University President Wendy Libby in the Patel Center for Global Solutions on Wednesday, trims a year off law school by allowing students who meet certain benchmark requirements to begin their coursework for law school after three years of undergraduate education at USF.

Their first year of law school, equal to 31 credits, will be recognized by USF as the fourth year of an undergraduate education, and after six years students will have earned a JD and bachelor’s degree from Stetson and USF, respectively.

“Not only does this save a year of class time, but it also saves an additional year of tuition and student debt,” USF President Judy Genshaft said. “This is a great example of how universities can work together to remove barriers from advancing talented students. … They want to have capable research students who are bright and eager to make a difference in the world, and now we have a route to get them there more quickly.”

Tuition for the average private law school is more than $40,000 per year, according to an article in the New York Times, and tuition at public schools averages at more than $20,000 per year. Tuition at Stetson is $37,462 for the 2013-14 year, but USF Provost and Executive Vice President Ralph Wilcox said Stetson would provide 50 percent tuition scholarships for the three years that students attend Stetson in addition to a $1,500 book scholarship.

Eligible students must have a 3.5 cumulative GPA at the end of their junior year, have completed 89 undergraduate credit hours, including all general education and major requirements, have an LSAT score higher than the 75th percentile of Stetson’s last admitted batch of students — last year’s was 158 — and meet Stetson’s “character and fitness requirements.” Interested students must declare their intent to the Honors College by Sept. 1 of the year before which they hope to start the program.

Wilcox said the partnership will help the Tampa Bay area retain talent in the area.

“It’s a value added in attracting Florida’s best and the brightest to the Honors College and then moving them along a well-defined path,” he said.

Steven Koster, a sophomore majoring in environmental policy and international studies, who said he hopes to pursue a career in biodiversity law or a related field, said he may consider the option.

“For incoming honors students to know that’s what they want to do,” Koster said. “I know the seven year medical program offers a lot of awesome opportunities, so I think this will too.”

Lauren Potts, a junior majoring in mass communications and pre-law, who said she hopes to pursue a career in criminal defense and human rights advocacy, said as a rising senior, she won’t be eligible for the program but thinks it will provide an attractive option for students who don’t want to graduate with large amounts of debt.

“I’m in love with Florida, and want to stay in Florida,” she said. “I hadn’t looked at it as much, but this partnership really brought it into view.”

But before formalizing the agreement, Genshaft said the universities already shared a bond.

“To top everything off, we’re all green,” she said. “We’re the green team.”