The US Department of Education has pulled access to federal financial aid dollars from Charlotte School of Law, a for-profit institution in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The DOE claims the school has been misleading about its students’ performance on the North Carolina state bar exam and their prospects for finding work after graduation that would help them pay off their student loans.
The department’s actions are not without precedent. In the past three years, it has rescinded access to federal loan money from over 40 institutions of higher education. Of those, only four have successfully appealed to have access returned.
Tuition at Charlotte School of Law runs students around $60,000 per year, and many graduate with up to $200,000 in student loan debt. When students are unable to pay those loans, the burden is shifted to taxpayers, while schools are able to keep the tuition they’ve received. For this reason, the Department of Education places strict requirements on schools hoping to be included in federal education assistance programs.
The school is part of the Infinilaw group, which operates for-profit law schools in North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona. In a 2014 Atlantic Monthly article, University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos claimed that only about one percent of Infinilaw’s 2013 graduates earned jobs that would enable them to pay off the debt they incurred by going to school.
In addition to not providing an education that would help students pass the bar exam and find adequate work in the legal profession, the Department of Education claims the school’s admission policies encourage students to enroll when they have little chance of completing their education.
Two groups of students have filed class-action lawsuits against Charlotte School of Law, accusing them of fraud and deception. On January 4th, a group of students rallied outside the campus to protest the school’s practices.
In a statement to students and alumni, school administrators said they are working with the Department of Education to have the matter resolved. But because its federal assistance access remains in jeopardy, the law school will not be admitting new students this month as planned.
The DOE’s action is only the latest blow to the private law school. In November of 2016, the American Bar Association imposed a two-year probation on the school, demanding that it be more upfront with students and the public about its admissions policies and its graduates’ success rate on the North Carolina state bar exam.