Amidst the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mitchell Hamline School of Law is beginning its fall semester this week with what is likely to be a record number of incoming students.
Enrollment figures won’t be finalized until October, but currently 420 first-year students are enrolled. This includes those in the school’s partly online Blended Learning enrollment option and in the traditional on-campus program. Because of the ongoing pandemic, all students in both enrollment options are starting the year fully online. The school’s total enrollment for 2020-21 is estimated at 1,245, up from 1,194 in 2019-20.
The newest class of 1Ls also scored, on average, as well as or slightly higher across several academic indicators than previous classes.
“This was an exceptionally challenging year for students trying to navigate the process of getting into law school,” said Ann Gemmell ’12, dean of admissions. “But our faculty and staff tirelessly worked to foster connections that resonated during a time of social distancing and learning at home.
“We’ve always been a pioneer in online learning, and I think people who were looking at law schools recognized that and decided to put their trust in us.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced law schools across the country to go online earlier this year, Mitchell Hamline quickly found itself assisting other schools who had never ventured into virtual instruction.
“We were well-positioned to go totally online this spring, and I think we’re well-positioned to make the most of an ever-evolving and uncertain situation this fall,” said President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki, who is starting his first year at Mitchell Hamline after taking the helm on July 1. “I’m just pleased that we were able to enroll a larger class than we expected while simultaneously increasing the credentials of our entering students.”
In addition to adjusting to total-online learning for the fall, the school also is launching the newest version of its Blended Learning curriculum. It is a single enrollment option that combines the best elements of the pioneering Hybrid J.D. program – which debuted in 2015 as the first online/on-campus J.D. program at an ABA-approved school – as well as the Executive and Weekend J.D. offerings. It provides for substantial on-campus time (when there is no pandemic) and is highly customizable. “Students can design their program to finish in three years if they wish, earn specialized certificates, and take classes in a variety of formats,” said Gregory Duhl, faculty director for Blended Learning. “They can graduate eligible to sit for the bar exam in every state.”
More than 200 students will be part of the new Blended Learning option, a record for any law school to date. They come from 43 states and two Canadian provinces, plus Guam, Italy, and an Armed Forces station in Europe.
The 150-plus on-campus students include full-time students as well as part-time students who either attend during the day or in the evening.
Pending final numbers in October, here is what we know about the incoming class:
- 53 percent are women
- 23 percent are students of color or Indigenous, an increase from last year.
- 48 students (11 percent) were born outside the United States, including six students from India and five from the Philippines. They come from a total of 28 countries.
- 41 percent are from Minnesota; 59 percent from outside Minnesota.
- They range in age from 20 to 73
- They’re alumni of 250 different undergraduate institutions
- More than a third are the first members of their family to attend college
- 37 have served or are currently serving in the military.