Under some circumstances, first-year students may take less than the full 31-hour course load required for the first-year curriculum. See Faculty Rule 9.20.
A student wishing to load-lighten must seek permission from the Academic Affairs Committee. The student must file a written petition with Monte Smith, Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs, setting forth their reasons for requesting permission to light-load. The Committee may grant permission because of childcare or other dependent family difficulties, disability accommodations, personal problems, or academic difficulty.
If a student elects to load-lighten, he or she must make up the course the following year. The student may not delay to their third year satisfying first-year course requirements.
Load-lightening has a number of consequences. First, students who load-lighten during their first year will have to "make up" the hours for the dropped course and will be "behind" their classmates in accumulated hours.
These hours, however, can be made up relatively easily. Some students choose to take courses during the summer session.
Another alternative, less frequently employed, is to take an additional semester to finish law school. This is particularly advantageous if the student needs to have a relatively light course load throughout law school.
Finally, by averaging roughly fifteen credit hours per semester during the second and third years, rather than the approximately fourteen hours per semester that other students must average, these hours can be made up.
The second consequence is that load-lightening occasionally makes upper-class scheduling a little less flexible. For example, the first-year course that the student must make up during the second year might be offered at the same time as an upper-class course he or she wants to take. The student may have to defer the upper-class course to a later semester or the following year or take it with a different professor.
Or the course that must be made up might be a prerequisite to an upper-class course that the student might want to take, and he or she may not be able to take the course until the third year. The college administration, however, schedules its courses with these considerations in mind, and load-lightening should not preclude a student from taking a particular course at some time during law school.
Finally, load-lightening may have some financial repercussions. Because load-lighteners remain full-time students, their tuition remains the same for fall and spring semesters. If the student makes up these hours during the summer session, he or she will, of course, have to pay tuition for the summer session. Also, if a load-lightener does go below full-time status of ten hours, the student will not be eligible for full financial aid and may have to repay immediately any excess award.
For more information about load-lightening, contact the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.