Topeka A new Wichita law school has convenient evening hours. The catch is it can't grant degrees for practicing law.
A night school underwritten by a conservative Wichita businessman aims to become the state's third accredited law school.
President's College of Law, a block east of the public library in downtown Wichita, specializes in evening legal education for working people.
"Our program is not offered by the other two schools in the state," said Thomas Laurino, the school's dean and president of President's College Inc. "We're very dedicated to the part-time program. It's our particular niche."
The school, in business six years, has about 50 students enrolled. They pay $300 per credit hour vs. the $239 resident student rate at Topeka's Washburn University law school. Kansas University law school credit-hour costs next year are expected to be about $210.
Despite the higher tuition, the school isn't certified to grant degrees. Nor are its graduates eligible to take the Kansas Bar Exam.
The Kansas Board of Regents is scheduled to decide today if it will send a review team to the school, a step toward making President's College an accredited law school.
The school, which also seeks accreditation by the American Bar Assn., was founded with money from Wichita businessman Willard Garvey. Garvey is one of the state's leading financial backers of libertarian and conservative political causes.
"Right now, he's the lifeblood of the school," Laurino said. "He's provided the lion's share of finances that have provided for the facilities and the library."
The school seeks to expand its funding sources. A $10 million capital campaign is in the works, Laurino said.
Instead of degrees, the school grants students certificates of completion. But it is working to change that. Accreditation is important for the school and its students because the Kansas Bar Exam can only be taken by graduates of programs accredited by the ABA.
Currently, about 12 of the school's 50 students are close to finishing, Laurino said.
"I have a feeling right after (the regents authorizes the school to grant degrees) that a significant group of students will be granted degrees," he said.
Regents Associate Academic Affairs Director Kathy Rupp said if the board gives President's degree-granting authority, the school also would need to win ABA accreditation to keep its degree-granting status.
"The board would say if you are not approved by the ABA, we will remove your authority to grant degrees," Rupp said.
Laurino said he thinks approval will be a sure sign the school is ready for ABA approval.
"The board process is similar to the ABA," he said. "I have every confidence we can get through."
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