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Charleston school looks to become nation’s 1st free law school

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Charleston School of Law is preparing to become the first free law school in the nation.

“When I started, my goal was to reduce our tuition to where our students wouldn’t have such a high student loan when they got out of school. So I’ve changed that goal,” CSOL President J. Edward Bell III told SC Biz News. “My goal is to be the first law school in the country to have no tuition at all. To be a free law school. And we’re on our way to doing that.”

Though there is no timeline for such a feat as of yet, Bell is confident that his goal is attainable in the near future.

“Well, someone is going to have to invest a lot of money in our endowment, and I think we’ve got that set up, and I think it’s going to happen,” he said.

Charleston School of Law currently has 611 students enrolled, and Bell said unfortunately hundreds more applicants had to be turned away for capacity this fall. The school is right on the bubble of having more students than they need for a balanced student-to-faculty ratio.

If CSOL decides to increase its student body, the school would have to substantially increase its faculty, too, Bell said. As it is, the faculty is working overtime and the school is working to adjust the student-faculty ratio.

But the question of whether, once free from tuition, the school sticks to its student limit or increases its capacity to accept more students is at the top of Bell’s mind.

“Then we would really have a leg up on getting some of the top students in the country,” he said. “It especially would be helpful in getting minority students. It would help our diversity program. It would help everything.”

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