On the basketball court, Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington are crosstown rivals. But the schools have teamed up in the classroom to offer a unique four-year program that...

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SPOKANE — On the basketball court, Gonzaga University and Eastern Washington are crosstown rivals.

But the schools have teamed up in the classroom to offer a unique four-year program that allows students to graduate with a dual degree in law and social work.

Social workers and lawyers often work closely, but the fields tend to operate separately. The new program, offered through Gonzaga’s School of Law and Eastern’s social-work department, is intended to train workers with expertise in both fields, its backers said.

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The program shaves a year off the time it would take to get both degrees separately.

As many as 16 students will be admitted in the next four years for the program, which bestows a law degree and master’s degree in social work.

Students with an undergraduate degree in social work may qualify for advanced standing in the program, allowing them to finish the dual degree in three years.

“It will be a major commitment for students,” said Michael Frumkin, Eastern social-work and human-services dean. There are about 25 similar programs around the country, Frumkin said.

To be admitted, students need to qualify for admission into both programs separately.

Kasey Kramer, Spokane County director of community services, said he expects the dual program to attract new students.

“The nature of the job (in social services) is all about relationships,” Kramer said. “This degree takes from the get-go the attitude that these interdependent relationships are critical in order to get things done.”

Gonzaga spokesman Dale Goodwin said students in the program pay tuition at both schools, but some of the expense is offset because fewer credits are required for graduation.

Instead of taking five years to obtain both degrees, the joint program takes four, he said.