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POLITICS: PennAve

Obama: Law school should be two years, not three

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President Obama suggested Friday that three years in law school is too many, and that schools should consider cutting back the length of programs to two years and getting real-world experience in the third.

Speaking at an event promoting his higher-education agenda at Binghamton University in New York, Obama said that law schools would “probably be wise to think about” transitioning to two-year programs followed by clerking or practicing, and that “that step alone would reduce the cost” to students.

Both the president and his wife, Michelle Obama, are graduates of Harvard Law School. Obama said Thursday that he only finished paying off his law school debt in his 40s. According to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet, Obama took out $42,753 in loans to pay for law school, and the first lady borrowed $40,762. They paid off the loans when Obama signed a $1.9 million deal for his autobiography “The Audacity of Hope” in 2004.

Obama hesitated before recommending law schools reduce the required number of years for a degree, telling the town-hall style crowd that “this is probably controversial to say, but what the heck. I’m in my second term, so I can say it.”

According to the Law School Admission Council, applications to law school for fall 2013 have fallen 17.9 percent from 2012. The number of law school applicants has fallen for three years in a row.

Part of Obama’s plan for reforming higher education includes transitioning from time-based to competency-based credits, which would allow more students to finish school in less time. “There’s no law that says you have to graduate — that for you to be in school for four years rather than three or 3 1/2 somehow automatically gives you a better education,” Obama said.

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