Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Financial Lifeline Severed at Charlotte Law School

gold cap and diplomaIn what may be the death knell for Charlotte School of Law, the U.S. Department of Education has yanked federal loan funding for its students.

The financial aid cutoff – effective December 31, 2016 – came after the for-profit institution was found to have made “substantial misrepresentations” to current and prospective students regarding bar passage rates and ABA accreditation standards.

“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,” U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said in this press release. “CSL’s actions were misleading and dishonest. We can no longer allow them continued access to federal student aid.”

Charlotte has one of the highest dropout rates – and lowest bar passage rates – of any school in the country, according to federal statistics.

The school was placed on probation by the ABA in October 2016.

The school says it is working on the deficiencies and plans to be back in ABA compliance within two years, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Cutting Off The Lifeblood

Federal student aid is the lifeblood of for-profit institutions like CSL, and the threatened cutoff could be fatal.

Between 2015 and 2016, a total of 946 students at CSL received $48.5 million in federal student loans, according to the education department.

Of the 208 law schools the ABA accredits, CSL had the highest number of first-year students dropping out for academic reasons, according to the DOE. Half of CSL’s 354 first-year students dropped out in the 2015-2016 school year, compared with 45 percent the previous year. More than a third of those who left did so because of poor academic standing.

The ABA first raised concerns about what was happening at CSL after on-site evaluation last year.

“Examiners concluded that the school’s curriculum failed to prepare students to take the bar and that the administration admitted people incapable of completing the program,” reports the Washington Post. “After months of hearings and requests for more information, the bar this summer said the law school was not living up to the standards necessary for accreditation.”

Cataclysmic Event for Legal Education

One legal education expert says the move is potentially cataclysmic.

“The Department of Education’s reasoning could easily be extended to other law schools,” Paul Caron, associate dean and professor at Pepperdine School of Law, wrote in an email to the ABA Journal. “Hopefully, today’s action by the DOE will finally cause law schools to confront the existential crisis facing legal education.”

Charlotte School of Law was founded in 2004. It is one of three for-profit law schools owned by the Infilaw consortium.

Left in the lurch are the approximately 700 law students – down from a high of around 1,400 – still enrolled in the school. Some say they are trying to transfer to other schools. Others are angry and confused. Many have no idea what their future holds.  

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About the Author

Jay Reeves

jay.reeves@ymail.com | 919-619-2441

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Over the course of his 35-year career he was a solo practitioner, corporate lawyer, legal editor, Legal Aid staff attorney and insurance risk manager. Today he helps lawyers and firms put more mojo in their practice through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations.

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