The Education Department on Monday said Charlotte School of Law can no longer receive federal loans and grants for misleading students about their chances of passing the bar and its shaky accreditation with the American Bar Association.
“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,” Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said in a statement. “CSL’s actions were misleading and dishonest. We can no longer allow them continued access to federal student aid.”
The bar association first raised concerns about Charlotte School of Law, a for-profit college founded in 2004, after an 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. 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.
Half of the 354 first-year students at the school dropped out of the program this year, compared with 45 percent last year, according to the Education Department. Of the 174 who left, more than 36 percent said it was due to academic attrition, meaning that they were not in good academic standing. The bar association said that of the 208 law schools it accredits, Charlotte School of Law has the highest number of first-year students leaving for academic reasons.
The law school appealed the bar’s decision, but the bar rejected the request and placed the school on probation in November, which ultimately led education officials to deny Charlotte access to federal student aid. The Education Department also takes issue with the school’s advertising that it is fully accredited, that it has a rigorous curriculum and that its students have an above-average rate of passing the bar, none of which is accurate.
Charlotte School of Law can appeal the decision, which takes effect at the end of this month.
“We had no warning of this change in the eligibility status of the School and no opportunity to communicate with the Department of Education prior to its letter or the public announcement,” said Victoria Taylor, a spokeswoman for Charlotte School of Law.
Taylor said the decision is primarily based on the bar association placing the law school on probation, but “ignores the fact that the school remains accredited while it is on probation and is working to take steps to address the issues” cited by its accreditor. She said school administrators are working on a response to the department.
In the 2015-2016 academic year, the law school enrolled 946 students who received about $48.5 million in federal student aid, primarily federal student loans, according to the department. Charlotte School of Law is the first law school in the past three years to be kicked out of the federal student-aid program. During that time, more than 40 colleges have met the same fate, including Marinello Schools of Beauty and Medtech College.
Without access to federal aid, a source of tremendous revenue for colleges and universities, the vast majority of schools who are denied access to the funding program shut down. Both Marinello and Medtech closed within a matter of days after the government cut off access.
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