Columbia Law School has joined Yale Law School and Northwestern Law School in offering a fast-track program that allows students to graduate with a law as well as business degrees at the end of three years.

The fast-track joint J.D./MBA program has been designed to enable students earn their juris doctor degree and master's in business administration degree in three years instead of the traditional four years.

Columbia, which already has a four-year joint J.D./MBA program, is now allowing students who have applied and meet admissions criteria for both schools, to attend the fast-track 3-year program, which is more intense than the 4-year course.

Admitted students will attend Columbia Law School the first year, the Columbia Business School the second year and again the law school the third year.

The program is expected to be in high demand because admitted students will be able to earn money to repay educational costs a year earlier than those who attend the traditional 4-year program.

However, it does not mean that those who qualify for the fast-track program will be paying less tuition fees than those enrolled in the traditional 4-year program.

Why? Because the fast-track program charges regular law school tuition the first year, 150 percent of regular business school tuition the second year and 150 percent of regular law school tuition the third year.

The Columbia Three-Year J.D./M.B.A. Program is designed for highly motivated students who seek a deep education in both law and business, and who wish to complete their studies and enter the job market a year earlier than traditional joint-degree programs allow. This accelerated course of study gives select students the opportunity to earn degrees from both Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School in just three years, Columbia Law School said on its website.

The Columbia Three-Year J.D./M.B.A. Program prepares students for effective and creative leadership at the intersection of business and law, it said.

A strong foundation curriculum in business and law, plus a unique series of courses created and jointly taught by faculty from both schools, provides deep insight into law and business theory, policy, and practice. Faculty from both schools help shape the curriculum, and impact policy, through their groundbreaking research, it added.

The last date of applications for the fast-track program, which will kick off in fall 2011, is Feb. 15.

U.S. News has ranked Columbia Law School No.4 and Columbia Business School No.9 in its 2010 Best Law Schools and Best Business Schools list.