This spring, Mariel Spencer, a 2019 UM graduate, became the first student to graduate through the Accelerated Law Program. The Accelerated Law Program allows students to take some law school classes while pursuing their undergraduate degree.

Spencer, originally from Seattle, says she was initially drawn to the program because it allowed her to achieve her long-time goal of attending law school faster than previously possible. Traditionally, obtaining a law degree and an undergraduate degree would take seven to eight years — four or five years toward a bachelor’s degree and three years towards a Juris Doctor. The Accelerated Law Program allows students to complete their law degree in six years through exposure to law classes in their undergraduate curriculum.

“I decided to pursue this degree because I knew from the start of my college career that I wanted to attend law school,” Spencer said. “I also wanted to be done with school while I was relatively young so that I could do other things with my life.”

Spencer graduated in May with a degree in general business. The Accelerated Law Program allowed Spencer to do so by offering first-year law classes while she was still an undergraduate.

During her senior year, Spencer completed rigorous coursework in civil procedure, legal research and writing and constitutional law.

“This unique and flexible program provides an opportunity for ambitious and dedicated students to complete their degree in less time,” said Susan Duncan, Law School dean. “More importantly, by saving the undergraduate student time, it also saves them an extra year of tuition dollars.”

U.S. college students face a growing issue of accumulating student debt. In June 2018, Forbes Magazine reported U.S. student’s total undergraduate debt at $1.52 trillion, shared between 44.7 million students throughout the country. The average student owed $38,390.

Other universities offer similar degree programs such as Fordham University, Drexel University, Willamette University and the University of Pennsylvania.

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