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We don't need to tell you that the whole law school experience is changing these days. In fact, more and more schools have launched programs that will allow students to take at least a certain portion of their classes remotely through their computers.
Vermont Law School has just announced its own version of what it calls the Reduced Residency JD Program, in hopes that it will start attracting more students and faculty from other schools.
We Are Go for Launch
The Vermont Law School program is set to launch in the fall and will allow students to earn up to 15 credits of their required 87 through online courses. Once the program is up, students will be allowed to pick between five and six online courses, of which at least one will be an elective.
The RRJD program is the brainchild of the Vice Dean of the School, Jackie Gardina, who has presented the option as something that will differentiate the law school from other schools who don't offer such online courses. The aim is to accommodate new realities between campus life and work responsibilities off campus. Tuition will be the same for the RRJD students, but students will be able to use their time to earn money at their jobs.
If offering courses online sounds like the future, it's actually a bit of the past. Online course-work is nothing new and a number of law schools have been going about it for years. Cornell Law School was one of the first, in fact. In 2000, Professor Peter Martin taught intellectual property and social security law courses to over a hundred students enrolled at a handful of other schools. New York School of Law also started offering remote course work in its curriculum.
Is This About Cost Reduction?
The skeptic in us has to wonder if Vermont Law School's move is not actually driven by a need to better balance its books in the wake of reduced law school applications. Once the initial infrastructure is there, offering online coursework means substantially lower costs to the school -- with tuition staying the same.
While it is is claimed that students win by being given the opportunity to stay at home while earning their degree, it cannot be denied that the move is also a win for law schools who can now operate at reduced overhead but charge just as much. And what does this do to the J.D. in the meantime? Who is really winning here?