Encouraging Students to Take Foreign Language Courses

I don't know why I had to read this on Above the Law (no, not that), but it seems that UM Law school is implementing a very good change in the tuition structure which will ensure our students can take language (and other) courses in the University without extra charge. See University of Miami School of Law Slows Growth of Tuition.

I often tell students that they enhance their employability for any international work, and also much domestic work, if they speak another language well. And I tell students who have a basic grasp of a foreign language — often it's locals who speak Spanish but don't write it as well as they speak it — that they can get law school credit for advanced language courses in the college. (Last I checked they can't get credit for very basic language courses.)

But students sometimes reported that registration wasn't simple — and one of the issues was that sometimes the law school passed on the extra tuition charges the college charged it for those courses.

I don't know if the Dean's announcement means we have worked out a way to avoid those charges or if we will be eating them — Above the Law seems to get more news about Miami than I do these days — but either way this is good for students who want to brush up their language skills and signal competence to future employers.

(We also teach some introductory civil law classes in Spanish, which I recommend to students with at least near fluency so that they can acquire a basic legal vocabulary.)

Dean White's memo to students — which either wasn't sent to faculty or I missed it in the crush of work — is included below (as reported on ATL).


Dear Students,

There are two tuition policy changes which I would like to announce and bring to your attention as you go about registering for next semester. Both of them are designed to help you cap your tuition cost in any given semester to the amount of the law school’s then full-time tuition semester rate (currently $18,709). Both of these changes will go into effect this Spring semester.

1) Under our current rules, all UM Law students may take up to 6 credits of graduate level coursework in another UM department or school and count these credits toward their law degree. The rules describing what is allowed are set out in Chapter 16 of the Student Handbook. Unfortunately many of you have felt discouraged from taking advantage of this opportunity by our tuition structure. Rather than try to describe that structure in detail, let me just say that it often worked to impose an extra charge on students who took allowed courses outside of the Law School. This will no longer be the case. Your Law School tuition will now cover those nonlaw courses which you take and apply to your law degree. There will be no surcharge. I very much hope that this will encourage you to take greater advantage of what the University has to offer. Some of you are currently pursuing joint degree programs. I hope that the number of such programs will expand very soon. The tuition structure has made these programs more expensive than they need to be. The change described above will have the effect of capping the tuition cost of any given semester at the full-time Law School rate. One warning…we may not succeed in getting the University billing system adjusted quickly enough to keep you from getting tuition bills charging you more than $18,709. Please be patient and simply send the notice of any such charges to deanofstudents@law.miami.edu We will make sure that your bill is corrected. Please do not complain to the University billing folks!!

2) Under certain unusual circumstances students are allowed to request permission to take 17 credits in a semester. Permission to do this must be given by the Dean of Students. In the past. we have charged additional tuition for that extra credit (currently $1633). The full time rate has been limited to 16 credits. Henceforth, for tuition purposes, we will not charge additional tuition for 17 credits. This change will not affect the conditions under which permission to take a 17th credit will be granted.

I hope that these changes are helpful to you. TW

Patricia D. White

Dean & Professor of Law
University of Miami School of Law

Source: Above the Law

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3 Responses to Encouraging Students to Take Foreign Language Courses

  1. cruel and usual says:

    … no, not that….


    Oh, yes, indeed. That. Most emphatically——That.


    It was ugly.     And I didn’t understand any of the jokes.

  2. John Flood says:

    One almost thinks that it wouldn’t need saying, “Learn another language.” If law firms want to globalize their business on any scale they will be thinking of native speakers to help them along. Russell Baker used this method intensively when he was growing Baker & McKenzie as the first major international law firm.

    It’s easy to rely on English as the universal lingua franca and while it’s necessary I wonder how much longer it will be sufficient for. The UK has for many years offered law degrees combined with languages and this is one of the reasons that one sees so many English lawyers outside the UK.

    Let me finish on a small story. A few years ago I was in Hong Kong and was buying a shirt. There were two young guys in the store who were chatting to the assistants in Mandarin. When I spoke to them I found out that they were new associates in a biggish UK law firm about to leave for Shanghai. They were American and had learned Mandarin as part of their education, but went to lower-ranked US law schools. They had been able to leverage their employment opportunities considerably by their language skills. Without the language I wonder where they would have been.

  3. Janet Stearns says:

    Just a few clarifications and comments relating to “Encouraging Students to Take Foreign Language Courses.”

    1) Dean White announced this policy with two major goals, neither of which were in fact directly related to foreign language study. The first was to take away the perceived tuition penalty for those students enrolled in our joint degree programs. We currently have a JD-MBA, and several JD-Masters programs, and we are looking to add some more in the near future. Those students currently pay more than a FT law school tuition; and we wanted to address this disincentive. The next reason was to encourage students to consider taking up to 6 credits in our great University in graduate level courses that could add inter-disciplinary perspective to their law studies. Could be international affairs; music contracts; health policy; engineering or technology or many more that I can’t even imagine.

    2) In fact, the law school is essentially “eating” this tuition in Spring, 2010 by granting additional tuition waivers (effectively scholarships) for any tuition bills that exceed our own FT tuition. We may look at ways to restructure tuition in the future. But we wanted to encourage students to consider enrolling in University classes for this Spring semester.

    3) As to foreign language. This is a good thing and we encourage it. However, if you want to take beginners Spanish, French, Mandarin….you now have several options. One is to audit an undergraduate course w/o charge. The other is to consider paying for intensive classes at the School of Continuing Studies. Those are excellent classes, and they offer UM Law students a substantial discount. Everyone should know more then English in our current world. But we still don’t count language courses towards the UM Law credits that you need to graduate, and we will not be covering the cost of these classes under our recently announced policy….

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