Recruit & Retain (Capital University)
Thinking Beyond the Undergraduate
- By Amy Adams
- April 1st, 2016
Our jobs as enrollment
professionals include creating the
right environment for students to
succeed — in college and in life. The debate
over the rising costs of a college education
and the resulting level of debt, compared with
starting salaries on the other side of a degree,
is not a new one. What is changing, however,
is how institutions are reacting to those challenges and adjusting
their recruitment and retention efforts.
At Capital University, a private undergraduate and graduate institution
in Columbus, OH, we have been fortunate to see traditional
undergraduate enrollment continue to rise over the past seven years.
And while our Capital University Law School welcomed the second-largest
class of any law school in Ohio in 2014, it has faced declining
numbers in recent years — consistent with a nationwide trend.
We wanted to address that challenge proactively and create new
pathways for our students, starting at the undergraduate level, to pursue
their education and career aspirations while also addressing their
concerns about significant investment of time and money. This was the
driving force behind Capital’s launch of a new, accelerated 3+3 Bachelor
of Arts (B.A.)/Juris Doctor (J.D.) program, which enables law school
hopefuls to earn both undergraduate and law degrees in just six years
instead of the standard seven-year timeframe. Capital is the first institution
in Ohio to offer this option, and one of roughly 30 nationwide.
Although the offering is just wrapping up its first year of
enrollment, we are confident we’re taking the right steps for our
students. Here’s a quick look at how and why we did it.
Creating a Consistent Experience
We, like most institutions, care about our graduates’ paths
beyond commencement day. Any recruitment strategy should
highlight the type of experience a student can have as an undergraduate,
and provide guidance on what the student will be
prepared to do after those initial four years.
As Capital developed the accelerated program, carrying a
consistent experience for students — from undergraduate through
law school — was vital. The school’s undergraduate offering is
built upon a blend of rigorous liberal arts and professional curriculum,
but also ensures that students value vocation and lifelong
learning — that they use their knowledge, skills and talent to
serve the common good. Likewise, Capital’s law curriculum balances
instruction on legal theory with real-world practical training
that focuses on professional skills and ethical development. We
believe that creating an opportunity for students to build upon
that specific undergraduate foundation will create more productive
and marketable professionals.
As mentioned above, conversations about college costs and
resulting debt are nothing new. While 99 percent of Capital’s
undergraduate students receive scholarships and grants, and the
university funds more than $43 million in financial aid annually,
we know that cost is still on the minds of students and parents
weighing their college paths. And for those considering law school
as well, that burden can seem overwhelming.
Giving those students an opportunity to shave a full year off of
that journey — completing the 100 credit hours required to earn
the B.A. degree in three years, and then moving on to the J.D. curriculum
— alleviates some of that burden. Less time means less
tuition and the accompanying costs of living, which are often faced
without a full-time paycheck. And graduates essentially get a head
start on entering the workforce and securing a position that allows
them to justify the upfront investment.
Responding to Industry Trends
While Capital’s law school has fared well so far, it’s no secret
that law school enrollment is on the decline. In 2014, the American
Bar Association reported a decline in law school enrollment for the
fourth consecutive year. The last time law school enrollment declined
nationwide for four consecutive years was in 1987. At that time, the
nation had 29 fewer law schools. First-year enrollment is at its lowest
since 1973, when the U.S. had 53 fewer law schools.
While not directly an undergraduate enrollment issue, it is an issue
that affects our students. Various factors have threatened the legal
industry’s ability to continue to attract and produce passionate and
qualified professionals, but programs such as this alleviate some of
those challenges and expand access to candidates who might not have
considered the career path otherwise. We think this move will help
Capital assist an even wider pool of students in achieving their dreams,
and in turn supply a changing legal industry with a future workforce
that is well-educated, ethical and prepared to navigate change.
For more information about Capital University’s
new 3+3 program, visit www.capital.edu/bachelors-to-law.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.
Amy Adams, Ph.D., is the associate vice president for enrollment services at Capital University.