Topeka A new law school, financed by conservative businessman Willard Garvey, was approved Thursday by the Kansas Board of Regents.
In allowing the President's College School of Law in Wichita to offer law degrees, the regents also loosened a timetable on getting the school professionally accredited.
Regents' staff wanted the school to win preliminary accreditation from the American Bar Assn. in two years, or lose its degree-granting authority.
But Garvey and the school's president, Tom Laurino, said that would be a tough deadline to meet. The regents then extended the deadline to four years, with an update in two years on how the accreditation process was going.
The school has been in existence since 1994 but unable to offer law degrees. In 1998, the regents rejected the school's original request to grant degrees.
But last year, a six-member team, which included officials from law schools in Chicago and Houston, and U.S. Magistrate David Waxse of Kansas City, said that the school had made the necessary progress to offer degrees.
The school, which has about 50 students, appeals to those wanting to get a law degree while working, Laurino said.
Without approval of degree-granting authority from the regents, he said, the school could not win accreditation from the ABA.
That accreditation is necessary to allow graduates of the school to be allowed to take the bar examination.
Regents' staff proposed that the school be required to win preliminary accreditation within two years.
But Laurino said preliminary approval by the ABA usually takes three or four years. The regents went along with Laurino's suggestion.
But some regents members expressed concern about whether the school would be influenced by Garvey's ultra-conservative philosophy.
Laurino said Garvey has never imposed his political views on the operation of the school, and didn't expect that to happen in the future.
"He has never once monkeyed with anything. He is a strong believer in letting his managers manage," Laurino said.