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Chase College of Law is seeing spectacular results in an initiative that helps graduating students overcome the financial obstacles to passing a bar exam, such as not being able to afford a review course or not having concentrated study time.

Students assisted by the alumni-supported Finish Line Fund since its inception in late 2019 have an overall passing rate of 97 percent and a first-time rate of 91 percent. Using the also-impressive 79 percent overall passing rate of the Chase Class of 2020 as the most recent comparison, the higher rate of all Finish Line Fund recipients suggests that financial support for exam-takers levels out what might be an otherwise uneven playing field.

The Finish Line Fund provides graduating students with commercial bar review courses or monetary help to overcome financial obstacles to being able to concentrate on preparing for an exam. That includes such assistance as offsetting lost income to make it possible to take time off from work to study and providing childcare to allow for undistracted study time. 

“The fund grew from our learning that a good number of graduates did not enroll in a commercial bar exam course because they lacked the resources to access this vital tool,” says Dean Judith Daar, the Ambassador Patricia L. Herbold Dean of Chase, who envisioned the fund. “Since studying for the bar exam with a commercial company is highly correlated with success on the exam, we started the Finish Line Fund to make sure each of our students had the opportunity for success.”

That success shows in the numbers. “The 97 percent overall pass rate and 91 percent first-time pass rate is an astonishing result,” Dean Daar says, “and we believe it is tied to two factors: the requirement that awardees sign a pledge to complete at least 85 percent of a commercial bar exam course (or the award converts to a loan) and the sense of commitment that Chase makes to these students through the award, and its boost of confidence, gratitude and a determination to succeed.”

For recent graduate Holly McCabe, confidence and determination were never a concern. What was a concern was, she would have to take the remote Kentucky bar exam at home with three young sons with her. To smooth out the potentially distracting bump in the road of worrying about what might be happening in a room next to her while she was trying to concentrate on multiple-choice and essay questions, the Finish Line Fund provided her with the peace and quiet of a hotel room in which to take the exam. Her result: She passed and is now practicing in Northern Kentucky.

For Lashae Richie, the assistance smoothed her transition from student to now staff attorney with the Jefferson County (Louisville, Ky,) Commonwealth’s Attorney. “The Finish Line Fund allowed me to take necessary time off from work so that I could focus on the bar exam. I went into the exam knowing that I had given it my all during the study period.”

While the fund helps boost new graduates – it has made 54 awards, including 21 for July 2021 exams, of $45,000 in stipends and 12 commercial review courses – it also unites them with previous alumni in a shared goal of bar exam success for Chase graduates overall.

“I remember well how important a good bar review course was for me and my classmates,” says alumnus Timothy Timmel, who contributes to the fund. “I can’t imagine having to risk taking the bar exam without a review course – after three or four years of law school – because of finances. The Finish Line Fund has a significant and immediate impact on deserving graduates. Look at the amazing results turned it by our recipients: a 97 percent pass rate!”