Pursuing a Juris Doctor degree is a substantial investment of time, resources, and energy. However, according to the most recent data released by the American Bar Association, only 57% of law school graduates from ABA schools hold full-time, long-term jobs that require Bar membership, and more than 10% have no job at all.[i] This is even more troubling if one considers that 85% of these students took out substantial loans to finance law school, bar exam prep, and often their four years of undergraduate studies, making it common, according to the ABA, “for law school graduates to carry a debt burden of between $150,000 and $200,000, and many carry much more.”[ii] More and more, men and women interested in a legal career are forced to ask whether investing 7-8 years of time in formal education, only to finish carrying tens of thousands of dollars in debt, is worth a mere 57% chance of holding a full-time, long-term job that actually utilizes their status as an attorney.
But what if there were another way? What if entering law school didn’t require a four year undergraduate degree and all the costs and time it entails? What if obtaining a Juris Doctor degree and becoming a member of the Bar didn’t cost hundreds of thousands of dollars? What if your education could be tailored, streamlined, and structured in a way that allowed you to work and pursue professional experience during law school, giving you a competitive edge in the job market? This is what Oak Brook College of Law offers.
Because Oak Brook College is driven by the vision and mission to train attorneys who truly “advance the gospel of Jesus Christ through service as advocates of truth, counselors of reconciliation, and ministers of justice,” great consideration is given to what the school needs to do to make that vision a reality. One aspect of this is a desire to see our students graduate as equipped as possible and as unencumbered as possible, able to begin a career and serve their families, communities, and churches in ways that are simply not possible when saddled with massive student debt. The faculty and leadership at Oak Brook College have done three specific things to give our students the greatest benefit, with the least cost.
- Allow entrance without an undergraduate degree. Under California law, students can enter law school without an undergraduate degree, as long as they demonstrate sufficient knowledge through accumulation of 60 college credits, or the passage of specific CLEP exams. Oak Brook College allows students to qualify under either of these provisions, at any age. While there is certainly a time and place for obtaining an undergraduate degree, for students who are passionate about law or government policy, Oak Brook makes it possible to spend time and resources intentionally pursuing their end goal, rather than spending four years on a degree that is not directly relevant, and accumulating substantial debt in the process.
- Providing opportunities through a distance-learning format. One of the most significant factors when beginning a career is a graduate’s ability to bridge the gap between academic knowledge and real-world experience. For the Oak Brook student, a flexible schedule allows an unparalleled opportunity to pursue professional experience in the field of their choice. Oak Brook students excel in long-term internships, work positions, and clerkships during their time at OBCL, developing vital practical knowledge as they simultaneously pursue academic knowledge. There is no substitute for graduating with established contacts and real-world experience, particularly in a competitive job market. Oak Brook’s distance-learning format is intentionally designed to allow this.
- Maintaining truly affordable tuition rates. While the average cost of a traditional private law school is $40,634.00 for each year, exclusive of interest, fees, books, housing, and other costs, tuition at Oak Brook is currently $4,500.00 for each year. The price difference becomes even more stark when the average academic debt load of an ABA law school graduate is considered. An ABA report on graduate debt and employment found that “it is not uncommon for law school graduates to carry a debt burden of between $150,000 and $200,000, and many carry much more.” By contrast, a typical graduate of Oak Brook colleges carries no academic debt whatsoever, leaving them free to pursue a career that is their passion, rather than one which simply covers their student loans. Oak Brook Alumnus and District Prosecuting Attorney, Brian Hutchins, agrees. “I frequently see the benefit of completing law school without any debt. Many of my colleagues struggle on a public service salary because of astronomical student debt from undergraduate and then law degrees. Some of my colleagues gave up their positions as prosecutors and moved to other jobs, which they dislike, for a higher salary in large part because of the financial strain of student debt. The freedoms of not having that same debt are a tremendous blessing for my family.”
Oak Brook isn’t for everyone – it requires diligence, creativity, and the drive to make the most out of every opportunity. But no matter which scale one uses, the benefits of streamlining one’s education, pursuing professional development, and graduating without debt are benefits worth pursuing.