RUSHING TO WHERE, EXACTLY?

A May 12 article in the Wall Street Journal made me wince.

Among those interviewed in “Speeding College to Save $10,000” is a student who chose a small liberal arts college in Indiana because it “had a new program that would let her speed to a bachelor’s degree in just three years, saving her family $10,000.”

Her motives are understandable. College has become expensive and law school even more so. By the time they’ve finished their formal education, many law graduates find themselves chained to the equivalent of a home mortgage — but without the house.

So the solution seems obvious: unnecessary years of school are a luxury. Isn’t it better to save the expense and get on with whatever you want to do with your life? Why not accelerate your way through law school, too?

Then came a disturbing revelation:

“[S]he will have to take two courses online this summer in addition to working her usual job at a greeting-card shop…”

Online courses? At a small liberal arts college? What sort of experience is she buying with her tuition dollars? Is all of higher education destined to become the University of Phoenix?

But here’s the line in the article that really made me squirm:

“[She] wants to go to law school, and is eager to get there a year sooner… ‘this is where I want to be,’ she says. The three-year program ‘is working out perfectly for me.'”

What makes her so confident at age nineteen that a fast track to a legal career is “where she wants to be”? I hope I’m wrong, but here’s my guess: She read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school (only a year or two ago) and she finds most episodes of Law and Order engaging.

I hope she and others like her learn more about where they’re headed before incurring enormous law school debt to finance their journeys. Unfortunately, accelerated educational paths squeeze out precious time for contemplating such distractions.

The law is and will remain a noble profession in which many thrive. But others have pursued such degrees without any real understanding of what awaits them. When reality clashes with expectations, disappointment and unhappiness follow.

The profession and those seeking to enter it would benefit from providing prospective lawyers better information about their likely jobs before locking themselves onto that track. But it’s a daunting assignment.

Especially when you’re young, bad things usually happen to someone else, right?

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