About the Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law
ABOUT THE SANTA BARBARA & VENTURA COLLEGES OF LAW
For nearly 50 years, The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law has made a first-class legal education accessible to a diverse range of students, producing engaged, civically minded graduates who make an indelible mark on the legal profession and other law-related fields.
We offer first-class legal education to students with real-world responsibilities
When the Ventura campus was established in 1969, the Colleges of Law made a commitment to open doors to individuals who possessed the passion, bravery, and intellectual rigor to pursue a legal degree, but felt that it was out of reach—whether because of a hectic work schedule, family obligations, socioeconomic status, or other circumstances.
For many years, our flexible, affordable J.D. and M.L.S. programs have allowed parents, full-time employees, and caregivers to pursue a top-notch legal degree without shortchanging work, family, or their education—or falling into overwhelming debt.
Our courses are delivered online (in our M.L.S. program) and at night (in our accredited J.D. program). Our accommodating professors and staff work hard to provide support and resources to make our students’ law school experience successful and rewarding.
Step into the profession the minute you step into the classroom.
Our professors are active contributors to the legal profession—practicing judges, lawyers, and elected officials who often come straight from these positions to teach in the Colleges of Law classrooms. With their support and expertise, students develop the leading-edge practical and theoretical skills necessary to succeed in today’s legal field.
With a degree from Colleges of Law, our graduates join a network of accomplished, competent, and community-oriented professionals from all walks of life. Many have enjoyed successful careers in the legal profession. Others have applied their Colleges of Law degree to fields like journalism, real estate, health care administration, government and corporate relations, social services, marketing, public relations, and more. One thing they all have in common? They credit the Colleges of Law with preparing them for professional achievement.
Discover a clear pathway to your future—without detouring into debt.
High tuition rates may actually diminish career paths for law school graduates, because there are limited options that will lead to timely payback of debt. At the Colleges of Law, our reasonable tuition rates and scholarship opportunities reflect a commitment to providing affordable legal education that will lead to a wider range of career opportunities (and less post-graduation stress).
We believe in democratizing the law within and beyond the classroom.
We believe that the legal profession should reflect the diversity of the clients and communities it serves. Our student body brings to campus a wide range of skills, ideas, and beliefs. Learning and working together in a collaborative environment that emphasizes discussion and debate as well as hands-on experience and local engagement, they develop strong relationships with each other and with members of the community.
In addition to a deep intellectual and practical grasp on the law, Colleges of Law graduates come away with the cultural competence that comes from studying with a cohort from different backgrounds and perspectives. They enter the profession as engaged, civically minded guardians of the rule of law, honor-bound to advocate not only for their clients, but for the communities in which they live and work, and for the justice system as a whole.
Our experienced leadership team oversees the day-to-day operations of The Colleges of Law, ensuring that our students’ law school experience is academically and experientially rewarding.
Matthew Nehmer, Ph.D.
Jackie Gardina, J.D.
Dean and Professor of Law
Faculty & Staff
Craig Smith, J.D.
Professor of Law
Barbara Doyle, A.A.
Assistant Dean & Registrar
Shawn Taylor, M.A.
Director of Admissions
Alexis Burdick, M.A.
Business Manager & Special Assistant to the Executive Director
Virginia Fuentes, J.D.
Academic Services Coordinator
Deborah E. Jurgensen, J.D.
Student Services Coordinator & Assistant Registrar
Santa Barbara Campus
Student Services Coordinator
Our Board of Trustees oversees crucial policy decisions in areas including academic affairs, institutional advancement, student services, and business and financial affairs.
Board of Trustees
MATTHEW NEHMER, PH.D.
Executive Director, The Colleges of Law
Santa Barbara and Los Angeles
Monique Snowden, Ph.D.
Vice President for Institutional Planning and Effectiveness, Fielding Graduate Institute
CATHERINE SWYSEN, J.D.
Attorney at Law, Private Practice
Richard A. Winn, Ed.D.
President, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
As a nonprofit, regionally accredited law school, we have built an outstanding reputation in the legal community, empowering students to seek out rewarding careers in law and related fields.
The Colleges of Law is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
Our Juris Doctor (J.D.) program is accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California as a single institution with two campuses in Santa Barbara and Ventura. The Colleges of Law’s degree-granting authority, in connection with its J.D. students' qualifications to take the California Bar Examination and obtain admission to practice law in California, is based upon its accreditation by the Committee of Bar Examiners.
In keeping with its mission to offer legal education that emphasizes both academic excellence and accessibility, The Colleges of Law has not sought accreditation from the American Bar Association. (See below for important information on admission to law practice.)
Students who attend the Colleges of Law are not required by the State Bar to sit for the First Year Law Students' Examination unless they are J.D. students admitted as "special students.”
The Colleges of Law have authority to operate in the State of California by way of an exemption granted by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education pursuant to California Education Code section 94874(g).
For review of a complaint, an individual may contact:
California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education
2535 Capitol Oaks Drive, Suite 400
Sacramento, CA 95833
916. 263.1897 (fax)
Admission to Practice Law
Admission to practice law in California
Juris Doctor graduates of the Colleges of Law are academically qualified to sit for the California Bar Examination. Admission to practice law within California is governed by the Office of Admissions of the State Bar. All J.D. students must register with that office; forms are available at the State Bar website.
In addition to meeting the academic requirements to sit for the California bar, students must also comply with the Rules of the State Bar. Additional information about State Bar requirements can be found in the Colleges' General Catalog.
Admission to practice law outside California
Juris Doctor applicants who wish to practice law in states other than California should be aware that as a prerequisite to taking the bar examination, most states require graduation from a law school approved or accredited by the American Bar Association or by the state supreme court or examining committee.
Study at, or graduation from, this law school may not qualify a student to take the bar examination or be admitted to practice in jurisdictions other than California. A student who intends to seek admission to practice outside of California should contact the admitting authority in that jurisdiction for information regarding its education and admission requirements.
California Bar Exam
Thanks to our accredited J.D. degree program, our graduates are academically qualified to sit for the California Bar Examination. Over and above that, they have completed a J.D. program specifically designed to develop the skills that the Bar Examination demands: a solid grasp of legal fundamentals, strong predictive and persuasive writing abilities, and excellent time management.
Our innovative Fourth-Year Bar Studies course helps each student create an effective, individualized approach for Bar Exam study. We also offer a customized extended Bar Exam preparation program in conjunction with the premier bar review provider, BARBRI.
M.L.S. Program Disclosure
The Colleges of Law M.L.S. program does not qualify graduates to sit for any state’s Bar Examination, nor does it satisfy requirements for admission to practice law in any state. Prospective students who wish to practice law should consider the J.D. program. The following statement is provided in compliance with State Bar requirements:
Except as provided in Rule 4.30 of the Admissions Rules (legal education in a foreign state or country), completion of a professional law degree program at this law school other than the Juris Doctor degree does not qualify a student to take the California Bar Exam or satisfy the requirements for admission to practice law in California. It may not qualify a student to take the bar examination or to satisfy requirements for admission to the practice of law in any other jurisdiction. A student intending to seek admission to practice law should contact the admitting authority in the jurisdictions where the student intends to qualify to sit for the bar examination or to be admitted to practice for information regarding their legal education requirements.
In 1969, Ventura attorney Fred J. Olson and a group of colleagues were looking to elevate society at a time of profound social change, founding an institution that would provide affordable legal education to people from all walks of life. The Ventura College of Law—a humble suite of classrooms leased annually from the former St. Catherine’s Academy for $1—opened in time for the 1969–1970 school year, with 36 students enrolled.
Soon after, in September 1974, Santa Barbara attorney Thomas Williams had a similar vision—establishing a law school on the former University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Riviera campus. With Ventura College of Law successfully operating about 30 miles away, the two institutions merged in 1978.
Today, we have a network of powerful alumni who have made a positive impact on local businesses and nonprofits as well as the community as a whole. With Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Legal Studies (M.L.S.) programs that combine academic rigor, convenience, affordability, and real-world practicality, we have a reputation in the community for providing students with a strong foundation in legal education.
In 2010, the Colleges of Law joined TCS Education System, a nonprofit higher education community dedicated to creating educational experiences that change the way students learn, educating them to apply their skills to bring about lasting social change.
The mission of The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law is to prepare leaders, for law and law-related professions, through graduate-level legal education that emphasizes academic excellence and accessibility. The Colleges seek to develop well-prepared graduates capable of integrating knowledge of legal theory, practical skills, and professional values.
The Santa Barbara & Ventura Colleges of Law will be an accredited, professionally recognized institution of legal education with student-centered outcomes that emphasize the pursuit of excellence in legal fundamentals and preparation for professional practice.
Yes, both campuses have been accredited for more than 30 years by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California. We are now accredited by the Bar Examiners as one law school with two campuses. The Colleges of Law is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools & Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).
Men and women of all ages, backgrounds, and life experiences attend the Colleges. Our students range in age from their 20s to their 60s, with an average age of about 35. The ratio of men/women students is about 50/50. Our student body reflects widely-diverse undergraduate majors and current employment fields.
Students pay semester-by-semester as they advance through the program. Learn more about the financial aid process.
Yes. Students attending the Colleges of Law are eligible for Title IV financial aid.
No. COL does, however, require the LSAT for candidates seeking admission as a “special student” or admission after a prior law school disqualification.
While most students at the Colleges have a bachelor's degree, applicants with an A.A. or A.S. degree or at least 60 acceptable academic semester units are also admitted (so long as the applicants have a sufficiently high GPA or LSAT score).
“Special students” with fewer than 60 acceptable academic semester undergraduate units may be admitted if they meet other requirements.
Because this is an academic program, recommend that they first seek a letter from someone who can speak to their academic abilities – a former professor or academic advisor. If not available – then another legal professional. Or both if possible.
Your personal statement is your opportunity to convey to the Admissions Committee anything that contributes to your suitability, motivation, and skills to pursue a law degree. This might include details about your life experience, employment or volunteer history, maturity, moral character, and ability to communicate.
Students are admitted to begin the program in the fall or spring semester. See our Academic Calendar for current start dates.
Fall and Spring Classes
Santa Barbara Campus
6:30pm–9pm, Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday
6:30pm–9pm, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursdays
6:30pm–9:30pm, Monday–Thursday & some Saturdays (depending on electives)
Our faculty are attorneys, judges, and elected officials who bring their practical experience to the classroom. Many have taught at the Colleges for as long as 10–30 years; each is an integral part of the legal community our graduates will be joining.
Classes in the first year of the curriculum may have 30–65 members, while advanced courses and seminars usually have 10–45 students. The average class size is approximately 25 students—small enough so that each student receives personal attention and large enough to hear a wide range of viewpoints in discussion.
Yes. J.D. graduates are academically qualified to sit for the California Bar Examination.
While you do not need to pursue a particular undergraduate major to succeed in law school, the ability to write well is important. Some students find it helpful to brush up on English composition skills by taking a college-level course or reviewing self-study texts. Among our recommended titles:
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White
- Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams
- How to Succeed in Law School by Gary Munneke, J.D.
The Federal Direct Stafford Subsidized Loan, Federal Pell Grant, and other state grants are available at the undergraduate level.
For graduate students, the primary source of aid from the federal government is the Federal Direct Stafford Unsubsidized Loan. A credit-based Grad PLUS loan is also available to graduate students. Depending on your credit history, you may require an endorser to be approved for the loan.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. If you completed a FAFSA last year, complete a renewal FAFSA. You must "e-sign" your FAFSA with your pin. Completion should take about 15–20 minutes.
Go to pin.ed.gov.
You will need:
- The Colleges of Law FAFSA school code (042501)
- Your Social Security number
- Driver's license
- Income tax returns
- Bank statements
- Any investment records
As you are considered an independent student, your parents’ information is not needed.
The recommended date to complete the FAFSA is March 1 of each year. You should complete/ renew your FAFSA annually; however, it is recommended that you complete your current tax forms prior to filing your FAFSA, so that you can retrieve your tax information directly on the FAFSA website. This option on your FAFSA will be available 7–10 business days after you have submitted your federal tax returns.
It takes approximately 7–10 business days after you complete your FAFSA for the school to receive your information.
Once you have completed your FAFSA and have submitted any additional required documents, an estimated award letter will be sent within 2–5 weeks. (You will need to sign and return the letter). We begin to process awards letters approximately four months before each semester.
No, but you need to be at least half time and you may not be eligible for the full amounts.
Full- and half-time J.D. and M.L.S. students are eligible for up to $10,250 per semester.
Yes, if you are at least half time.
There are some courses that are automatically considered half time. Review the Student Handbook for a list of courses.
We do not offer early disbursements of loan money nor do we disburse emergency loans.
Refunds are available starting the first week of each semester. Please monitor your Intuit account for the most up-to-date information.
If all financial aid requirements have been met, summer financial aid refunds will be available within 14 days of the summer aid disbursement being applied to your student account.
After your refund has been posted to your Intuit account, it will take 10–14 business days to receive it.
Yes. Please complete the Direct Deposit Authorization for Financial Aid Refunds form.
To determine your refund amount, subtract your tuition and fees charges from your scheduled financial aid.
There are a few reasons why your refund might be less than last semester’s:
- If this is your first year, you most likely had your $500 tuition deposit credited to your account last semester.
- You are registered for more hours this semester than previous terms.
- Tuition and fees have increased.
- You received less financial aid this semester.
Students will be assessed the appropriate fees associated with his/her add or drop. A student may need to make an additional payment even if he/she have already received a financial aid refund check. An outstanding balance on your account as a result of adding or dropping a course may prevent you from obtaining transcripts or future course registration. View your student account balance and make payments via Intuit.
ACH means your refund will be direct deposited to your bank account.
A “stipend” means a check or ACH has been processed. Please allow 7–10 days to receive this refund.
You can only consolidate your loans if you have graduated and are still within your grace period or you have entered repayment. The last year for in-school consolidation to be accepted was 2006.
The Colleges of Law offer scholarships as part of our institutional aid program to full-time students.
You might also consider a Grad PLUS loan or an alternative loan. We highly recommend first applying for a Grad PLUS Loan, as the benefits are similar to Stafford loan benefits, and you will be able to defer and/or consolidate. (Alternative loan interest is variable, and you will not able to defer or consolidate.)
Both Grad PLUS and alternative loans require certification from the Colleges of Law. We cannot certify aid above a student's cost of attendance.
A scholarship notification is emailed and mailed on the date the scholarship is awarded.
Please contact the Office of Student Accounts to set up payment arrangements.
This could mean you have an unpaid balance, an admissions contingency, or another issue preventing you from registering for courses and requesting transcripts. Please visit Intuit and review your messages to review which department you should contact to resolve the issue.
An FA hold will not prevent a student from registering or requesting transcripts; however, it does mean that we need to look carefully at your FAFSA information, which may require further documentation from you.