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The Massachusetts School of Law is taking a new approach to attracting would-be lawyers: It’s starting a two-year undergraduate college that will funnel students into its embrace. The American College of History and Legal Studies is expected to open in August in Salem, N.H., and will function as a sister school to the nearby Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, Mass. The law school is providing the startup money for the college, although the new, not-for-profit institution will otherwise operate as a separate entity. “As far as we know, this will be the only single-subject, upper-level college in the country, and it will focus solely on U.S. history,” said Maureen Mooney, the college’s chief operating officer. The new school will only offer a bachelor of arts degree in history and legal studies and will effectively function as the junior and senior years of a traditional undergraduate program. Eligible students must have at least 60 college course credits, meaning that the school might be an attractive option for students with two years of community college, people who dropped out of a traditional four-year college, or people who are returning to school following a long absence, Mooney said. The college will tie into the law school in several ways. Most notably, students may opt for a “3+3″ program combining the last year of their undergraduate degree with the first year of law school. “Their final year of college is in essence the standard 1L curriculum,” said Mooney — meaning that students could complete an undergraduate and juris doctor in six years instead of the traditional seven. Additionally, ACHLS students with a GPA of 2.3 or higher will be guaranteed a spot at the Massachusetts School of Law upon graduation. Courses at the ACHLS will focus on U.S. history, with a heavy legal component, Mooney said. “This provides a pathway to law school and ensures that those students start off with a firm foundation in their country’s history,” Mooney said. The college aims to keep costs relatively low for students. Tuition will be $10,000 a year, but students who are the first to apply and win acceptance will be eligible for half-price tuition. (Students in the second year of the 3+3 program will pay the standard law school tuition). It wasn’t yet clear how many students the new school will sign up in the first year — Mooney is expecting anywhere between 10 and 50. Classes will be held three nights a week, and many students will likely work full time as they complete their degree. “The program is a rigorous and thorough one with regard to U.S. history and writing,” Mooney said. “We are looking for anyone with 60 credits who is looking for that kind of academic challenge.” Massachusetts School of Law Dean Lawrence Velvel is the driving force behind the college and has been working on the project for several years. Just last week, the New Hampshire Legislature approved legislation authorizing the college. Gov. John Lynch is expected to sign the bill. Massachusetts School of Law is not accredited by the American Bar Association, and is one of only a few that does not require applicants to take the LSAT. The school prides itself on serving “deserving persons who have been excluded from law school.”

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