TAMPA — The University of South Florida and Stetson University College of Law have joined to put students on a fast track to becoming lawyers.
Leaders from both schools signed an agreement Wednesday, creating a "3+3" program between USF, a public university, and Stetson, a private one.
Students seeking a law degree usually go to undergraduate school for four years, then law school for three. The new agreement would let qualified students from USF's Honors College transfer to Stetson for their fourth year, putting them on track to earn both a bachelor's and law degree in six years instead of seven.
"We have so many students who are interested in the law profession, and when they make up their mind, they go for it," USF president Judy Genshaft said at a news conference. "These are students who are bright and eager to make a difference in the world, and now we have a route that will get them there more quickly."
After a student enrolls at Stetson and finishes 31 credit hours in the law program, USF will apply those credits to the remaining work needed for a bachelor's degree. The program also will provide some scholarship money to students, who will be paired with a student, teacher or graduate mentor from Stetson.
"Not only are we two separate institutions, but a public and a private institution, surmounting so many barriers to say to the people in this state and the people who go to our institutions, we can make things better, we can make it more accelerated and keep with the academic rigor," said Stetson president Wendy Libby.
It's not a guaranteed path for anyone who wants it.
The USF Honors College will screen candidates. Interested students have to apply a year in advance, earn at least 45 of the required undergraduate credits from USF, earn a minimum LSAT score in the 75th percentile and get a written recommendation from the dean of USF's Honors College. At that point, it's up to Stetson to let students into its law program. Stetson is based in DeLand and has a second campus in Gulfport.
"I could potentially get into it," said Steven Koster, a 19-year-old Honors College student who came to watch Wednesday's news conference. "It has definitely opened my eyes to more opportunities and made me think more about Stetson and where I want to go to law school, if I do that."
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3394.