"For entrepreneurs, working professionals, and those who are considering a career change, an online law program offers tremendous value," says Peter Young, dean of St. Francis School of Law. "In the near future, the stigma associated with online education will dissipate as quality improves and as the volume of qualified online graduates grows."
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And while ABA officials claim that it's unlikely that wholly online programs will be accredited in the near future because they lack the requisite full time faculty and facilities for students, the organization has indicated it is open to allowing ABA accredited schools to increase their online offerings. Currently, students at ABA accredited law programs can only take up to 12 hours in a distance or online setting that counts toward their J.D.
Donald Polden, dean of the Santa Clara University School of Law and chair of the ABA's Accreditation Standards Review Committee, says he anticipates that the ABA could expand the current 12-hour threshold, though he can't foresee a future where the classroom setting is marginalized at ABA accredited schools.
"There's growing comfort with [online education] as a useful and meaningful method of offering a part of the law school curriculum," he says. "[But], for a high quality program, you have to have students together because so much of learning happens in that interaction in the classroom space."
Ryan Lytle contributed to this report.
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