SIU School of Law and Tougaloo College Partner to Increase Diversity Among Attorneys

CARBONDALE, Ill. AND TOUGALOO, MISS — Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Tougaloo College signed an agreement to help students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities enroll and earn a degree from the SIU School of Law

SIU Carbondale and Tougaloo College, a Historically Black College, entered into a 3+3 dual degree program agreement for qualified college students. Students who qualify will have the opportunity to complete their bachelor’s and law degrees in six years. The partnership with Tougaloo is the third for SIU School of Law to create pathways to advanced degree completion and diversify the pipeline to the legal community. It is similar to a 3+3 program for SIU students. 

According to the American Bar Association, 14% of all lawyers in 2020 were Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, or of mixed race. However, only 5% of attorneys were Black, compared to 13.4% of the population. 

“The latest agreement continues the law school’s efforts to become more diverse,” said School of Law Dean Camille Davidson. It fits well with the university’s strategic plan, Imagine 2030, which includes a pillar to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. “SIU Carbondale has a long history of inclusivity, and I am excited that this agreement with Tougaloo furthers that mission,” Davidsonsaid. “It is important for society to continue working toward real access to justice and training attorneys from various backgrounds. We trust a justice system when we see ourselves as advocates and decision-makers. This agreement is another step in ensuring that students, including those from underrepresented populations, have the opportunity to reach their goals in the legal profession.”

As part of the agreement, Tougaloo students complete the application to enroll in the dual degree program no later than the end of their freshman year and must maintain a minimum 3.4 GPA. In addition, program candidates must complete three-fourths of the coursework required for a bachelor’s degree from Tougaloo College and all their major and thesis requirements by the end of their junior year. Students may be allowed to count thirty credit hours from SIU toward their bachelor’s degree.

Tougaloo’s Pre-Law Minor program provides students with the foundational knowledge, critical thinking skills, and ethical framework essential to being informed and socially responsible citizens. The program aims to provide the tools necessary to become high-performing, high-level thinkers, before graduation. Its ultimate responsibility is to prepare scholars to matriculate successfully through a law school program, further impacting the legal profession and the communities around us.

“Since its founding 153 years ago, Tougaloo College has been committed to providing equal access to education for all. Historically underrepresented students need to know that obtaining a degree from a top-tier law school like SIU Carbondale is accessible, attainable, and achievable,” said Tougaloo College President Dr. Carmen J. Walters. “HBCUs are powerhouses for African American talent. This partnership will connect our best and brightest scholars to SIU Carbondale to study in a safe, vibrant, and inclusive environment where they can thrive and survive. In addition, this partnership helps us move ever closer toward addressing disparities in representation across race, gender, and ethnicity outlined in our 2021-2026 strategic plan, Preserving the Past, Advancing Tomorrow,” said Dr. Walters.

Tougaloo students will also have access to SIU Law’s Diversity Prelaw Summer Institute, which helps high-achieving juniors and seniors from colleges around the country gain insight into legal careers as they prepare for law school.

Students receive assistance to prepare for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) while honing skills necessary for law school, such as interpreting and analyzing cases. In addition, students have opportunities to interact with lawyers, law students, and law school faculty.