In less than two weeks, Charlotte School of Law will lose all access to federal student financial aid money. CSL is a for-profit law school with an undistinguished reputation. According to Law School Transparency, an organization that gathers data on American law schools, only 46.3 percent of CSL graduates passed their bar exams in 2015. LST calculates that 50 percent of its 2014 freshman class had credentials so low that they were at extreme risk of failing the bar. LST also reported that not a single one of CSL’s 2015 graduates obtained a federal judicial clerkship, another indication of CSL’s mediocrity.
The Department of Education’s decision to deny student aid money to CSL is probably the school’s death knell. Most of CSL’s students must take out student loans to pay CSL’s extremely high tuition–about $44,000 a year.
The American Bar Association had already found that the law school was out of compliance with the ABA’s accrediting standards, but DOE did not pull the plug on CSL solely for that reason.
Rather, as DOE’s press release explained, CSL was found to have made misleading statements about itself to prospective students:
“The ABA repeatedly found that the Charlotte School of Law does not prepare students for participation in the legal profession. Yet CSL continuously misrepresented itself to current and prospective students as hitting the mark,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “CSL’s actions were misleading and dishonest. We can no longer allow them continued access to federal student aid.”
Without federal student-loan money, CSL won’t survive long. And if the school closes, that will be a good thing for the legal profession and all the potential students who might have borrowed money to attend this extremely lackluster institution.
Nevertheless, even if CSL closes, hundreds of the school’s graduates will suffer. Most have borrowed a lot of money to attend CSL; few obtained jobs that made the financial investment worthwhile.
DOE needs to do more than just cut off funds from one lower-tier law school. It needs to allow graduates of CSL and similar bottom-feeder law schools to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy.
And then DOE needs to get busy and shut off student aid money to some other law schools that have low admission standards and that are not placing enough of their graduates in well-paying law jobs. Here are some schools DOE needs to examine:
North Carolina Central University
Southern University Law Center
Appalachian School of Law
Florida Coastal School of Law
Ave Maria School of Law
Arizona Summit Law School
LST calculates that these schools admitted students with LSAT scores so low that 50 percent of their 2014 freshman class were at extreme risk of failing the bar exam.
And here are some more schools that bear watching:
Florida A & M University
Thomas M. Cooley Law School
St. Thomas University-Florida
University of North Dakota
Ohio Northern University
University of South Dakota
University of La Verne
LST has identified these schools as ones that admit students with LSAT scores so low that 25 percent of their entering 2014 classes were at extreme risk of failing the bar exam.
DOE and the ABA must work together to raise the overall quality of legal education in the United States. As Kyle McEntee, writing for Law School Transparency, observed:
Charlotte School of Law is not the only law school operating shamelessly to the detriment of the legal profession. This school, like several dozen more, set large percentages of their students up to fail, leaving them with high debts, wasted time, no job, and no hope. It’s long past time for these schools to go.
ABA needs to rescind accreditation for some of these schools, and DOE needs to cut off federal funding for at least a dozen more law schools.
Law School Transparency. 2015 State of Legal Education.
Kyle McEntee. Will This Law School Close After Feds Cut Funding? Bloomberg News, December 19, 2016.
U.S Department of Education. Charlotte School of Law Denied Continued Access to Federal Student Aid Dollars. U.S. Department of Education press release, December 19, 2016.
Richard Fossey is a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana. He received his law degree from the University of Texas and his doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is editor of Catholic Southwest, A Journal of History and Culture.