Law school is tough, but it has become more accessible for Carroll College students who want to pursue a Juris Doctor.
A new initiative between the two private Catholic institutions Carroll College and Gonzaga University was announced Monday at a press conference held in Carroll under blue Montana skies. Carroll partners with the Gonzaga School of Law in Spokane, Washington to offer a 3+3 dual degree program as an accelerated path for students to earn their law degree.
“Carroll College and Gonzaga University attract a similarly ambitious and high-achieving student,” said Carroll College President John Cech. “Through this special partnership, we are creating a pathway for these motivated students to earn a highly valued law degree in less time and at a lower cost. We look forward to doing what we can to ease the financial burden facing students as they prepare to enter and add value to our regional workforce.
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Cech emphasized that the goal of the program is to create pathways and opportunities for Montana residents.
The idea first surfaced in the fall of 2021, when Gov. Greg Gianforte called Cech on a Monday night. The governor told Cech that government cannot function without lawyers and that Carroll has a unique opportunity as it is the only four-year college in the state capital.
The next day, Cech contacted Gonzaga president Thayne McCulloh. From there, the two institutions worked together to develop the 3+3 dual degree program which has now borne fruit.
“I just planted the seed and (Cech and McCulloh) ran with it,” Gianforte said.
Students can attend Carroll for three years and, at the end of their freshman year and upon successful application, enroll in Gonzaga Law School. Credits earned in their first year of law school will be transferred to complete undergraduate requirements, allowing students to complete their bachelor’s degree while studying law.
“I think (the 3+3 program with Gonzaga) is an exceptional opportunity. Many students went to law school from our (political science) department,” said Jeremy Johnson, director of political science at Carroll. “Over the past 10 years, everyone who has applied to our department at Carroll has entered law school, and Gonzaga is a popular regional law school.”
The 3+3 program will allow Carroll students to complete both a bachelor’s degree and a JD in six years instead of the traditional seven-year cycle. This will save time and tuition costs while reducing student loans and increasing earning potential by joining the workforce sooner.
“We are very pleased to partner with Carroll College to provide students with an accelerated opportunity to earn both a Carroll undergraduate degree and a Gonzaga University law degree,” said McCulloh. “Gonzaga is proud of his many connections to Montana alumni, students and friends. We are grateful to our colleagues at Carroll College for this partnership and look forward to welcoming our first Carroll College cohort to campus in the fall of 2023.”
Carroll and Gonzaga are working to expand other aspects of this partnership, including the growth of Carroll’s pre-law program, the internship partnership and other collaborative efforts to be announced next year.
This is not Carroll’s first 3+3 dual degree program. In August 2019, Carroll announced its partnership with the University of Montana’s Alexander Blewett III School of Law, which was the first public-private partnership for the two institutions.
“I didn’t know (3+3 dual degree law programs) was a thing because my class at Carroll was first eligible. I found it on Carroll’s website my freshman year,’ said Rylie Weeks, a 2022 Carroll English graduate and a member of the Talking Saints (Carroll’s speech and debate team) who will be attending the dual-rights program. 3 + 3 degree from UM in the fall. “It was definitely more work because you have to complete your major and major requirements, but if you know you want to go to law school, then I would.”
The 3+3 Dual Degree program with Gonzaga will be available to newly admitted and qualified current Carroll students beginning in Fall 2022.
“Everyone wins when we provide students with the tools they need to succeed and thrive, which is why increasing educational opportunities is one of our primary goals,” Gianforte said. “Together with Dr. Cech, we are increasing access to legal internships in state government, giving students in the new Carroll College-Gonzaga University accelerated law degree program the opportunity to learn, train and start their career in Montana.”
Gianforte ended the press conference on a high note.
“Together, we’re looking for out-of-the-box solutions to help Montana residents thrive and reach their full potential. I am filled with optimism about what we can accomplish with this partnership,” said Gianforte. “Montana’s best days are ahead of us.”