Representatives G.K. Butterfield and David Price, also from North Carolina, joined Adams in the letter. The three laid out a seething indictment of CSL, which has been in trouble for a couple of years. The American Bar Association put CSL on probation in October 2016 for misrepresenting the law school's accreditation status and bar passage rates. And the Department of Education yanked the school's eligibility for federal student aid a few months later. Finally, in August 2017, the North Carolina Board of Governors pulled CSL's license to operate--dealing a death blow to the school.
Without question, CSL was a train wreck. The troubled school had high dropout rates and abominable bar passage rates. Only about a third (35 percent) of CSL graduates passed the North Carolina bar exam in February 2016, compared to 51 percent statewide. According to Adams and her colleagues, this passage rate would have been even lower if the law school had not paid CSL students not to take the exam. Moreover, the North Carolina legislators alleged, CSL students racked up an average of $200,000 in student-loan debt. Those who were enrolled when the school closed have little hope of having their credits accepted at another law school.
Under current Department of Education regulations, students are eligible for student-loan forgiveness if they were enrolled at a school at the time it closed or up to 120 days prior to closure. The regulations give the Education Secretary the authority to extend the 120-day enrollment requirement if circumstances warrant; and Adams and her colleagues asked DeVos to grant loan forgiveness to all students were enrolled at CSL from December 2016 until the day it closed.
Representatives Adams, Butterfield and Price are to be commended for seeking relief for recent CSL students, but their petition does not go far enough. In my view, every student who attended CSL from the day it opened until the day it closed should be granted student-loan forgiveness--without exception.
Before it shut down, CSL was one of the worst law schools in the United States by almost any measure. Based on metrics developed by Law School Transparency, a public interest law-school monitoring organization, 50 percent of CSL's 2014 entering class ran an "extreme" risk of failing the bar exam, and additional 25 percent ran a "very high" risk of failing the exam.
And it fact, less than half of CSL's 2015 graduating class passed the bar. Moreover, less than 25 percent of its 2016 graduates obtained full-time law jobs; and the law school's underemployment rate for that class was 58.8 percent.
Without question, a lot of former CSL students believe they were defrauded by their law school. According to an Inside Higher Ed story, more than 500 former students filed "borrower defense" claims based on allegations of fraud, and several class-action suits have been filed against the school.
Based on CSL's abysmal record, the only fair thing DeVos can do is wipe out all student-loan debt for every individual who took out student loans to attend CSL. And then DOE needs to take a close look at the other for-profit law schools that are still operating. All law schools with bar pass rates below 50 percent should be closed.
|Rep. Alma Adams (in hat). Photo credit: Scott Applewhite AP|
William Douglas. N.C. Democrats urge Charlotte Law School student loan forgiveness. The News & Observer, November 6, 2017.
Andrew Kreighbaum, Department Lays Out of Options for Charlotte Students. Inside Higher ED, August 25, 2017.
Andrew Kreighbaum, The Slow Death of a For-Profit Law School. Inside Higher Ed, August 16, 2017.