With notable increases in law school enrollment, Affordable Excellence tuition reduction/guarantee will continue for next year’s incoming class.

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06/01/2015
By Dean Michael J. Yelnosky
Monday, May 11th began a week-long celebration of the graduation of the Class of 2015, culminating in commencement exercises on Friday, May 15th.   Monday’s event was a reception for the...


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Extending Affordability, Excellence

With notable increases in law school enrollment, Affordable Excellence tuition reduction/guarantee will continue for next year’s incoming class.

AE2BRISTOL, R.I., Oct. 2, 2014 – With the number of first-year students up 24 percent since last fall – despite an admissions climate characterized by sharply shrinking enrollments at law schools across the country – Roger Williams University School of Law has pledged to continue its Affordable Excellence initiative to confront increasing costs, rising debt and the job-readiness of graduates, among the most pressing challenges facing legal education today.

For RWU Law students, the continuation of Affordable Excellence – first implemented for the current 2014-15 academic year – means the 18-percent tuition reduction (to $33,792) now extends through 2015-16, along with the school’s three-year tuition guarantee. Together, the reduction and guarantee translate to some $30,426 in saving over the course of three years, compared to the previous model. The ultimate outcome is lower debt loads for students – an important step forward in an environment where the availability of law jobs nationwide has diminished and starting salaries have dropped.

“We have disrupted the market on cost,” says RWU Law Dean Michael J. Yelnosky, noting that among more than 200 law schools in America, Roger Williams is one of only a half dozen to decrease tuition. “We’re now the best-priced, ABA-accredited private law school in the Northeast, and applicants are responding. The significant turnaround in our first-year enrollment is a clear indication that we’re giving students what they want – a high-quality, hands-on legal education at an affordable price.”

In addition to implementing the affordability measures, the law school simultaneously expanded its commitment to offering students a rigorous, marketable legal education that enables graduates to emerge job-ready and prepared to thrive in their early careers. Among other efforts, the School launched a new Community Economic Development Clinic in which students provide business-related legal services to nonprofits and community-based businesses; introduced its expanded Feinstein Center for Pro Bono and Experiential Education; and instituted an explicit guarantee that every qualified student will be afforded a substantial clinical experience.

The strategy brought an immediate, positive impact on enrollment. While many other law schools faced continued enrollment declines, RWU Law saw a spike: 138 first-year law students joined the school this fall, compared with 111 in Fall 2013. And despite the volatile law school admissions climate, RWU Law did not compromise its admissions criteria to bring in the larger class.

“Offering a relevant, experiential legal education is in this school’s DNA.” Yelnosky says. “When we opened our doors 21 years ago, hands-on legal education was an emerging trend, and we built our curriculum around it. Now we’re leaders in the field, and others are rushing to catch up. Similarly, we are responding to the seismic shifts currently reshaping the legal profession and giving our students the kind of education they need to thrive in this new reality, all at a price that makes sense. It isn’t a marketing gimmick. It’s who we are at RWU Law.”

Looking forward to the years beyond 2015-16, Yelnosky says the law school will keep tuition rates level for as long as it remains financially feasible – keeping any potential increases (if required) low – and will continue to publish the following year’s tuition rates as early as possible.

More information on RWU Law’s Affordable Excellence initiative is available via the law school’s website. Read posts from Yelnosky and others via the Trending@RWULaw blog or follow the dean’s active Twitter feed (@MichaelYelnosky), which offers real-time updates on what is happening at RWU Law.