The Department of Education (ED) on Monday announced that it will block the for-profit Charlotte School of Law (CSL) from access to federal student financial aid, after determining that the school's noncompliance with its accreditor violated the Higher Education Act (HEA) and that it made "substantial misrepresentations" about its accreditation and whether graduates would pass the bar exam.
As of Dec. 31, 2016, the school will be barred from participating in Title IV programs, ED said in a release.
"The [American Bar Association] repeatedly found that the Charlotte School of Law does not prepare students for participation in the legal profession," said Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell, in a statement. "Yet CSL continuously misrepresented itself to current and prospective students as hitting the mark. We can no longer allow them continued access to federal student aid."
CSL enrolled 946 federal aid recipients in the last award year (2015-16), and received about $48.5 million in federal student aid dollars, according to ED.
The ABA twice alerted the law school that it was noncompliant – first in February 2016, and again in July 2016 – but both times the school did not disclose the noncompliance to students, according to ED. The disclosure of the notice of probation is now tucked into a subpage of the "accreditation" section of CSL's website.
"Instead, CSL continued to represent itself as in full compliance with the ABA's standards. The ABA afforded CSL two opportunities to provide evidence and oral testimony of its compliance with the ABA's standards. On both occasions, the ABA affirmed its determination of CSL's non-compliance, and in October 2016 placed CSL on probation," ED said in its release. "When considering the school's request for recertification, the Department considered these and other facts and made an informed judgment about the institution's administrative capability and performance as a fiduciary of federal funds."
After the ABA placed CSL on probation in November 2016, CSL Dean Jay Conison said the school has "a deep commitment to continuous improvement to ensure strong student learning and outcomes."
"Over the past several years, we have made great programmatic and operational improvements to benefit our students; and have a rigorous and comprehensive plan to quickly bring ourselves into full compliance with ABA Standards and to end the probationary period," Conison said in a statement.
ED has taken similar action against other for-profit schools, including ITT Technical Institutes, the Marinello Schools of Beauty, Computer Systems Institute, and MedTech College. While CSL has not made an announcement as to whether it will continue operations, many of the other schools ED has sanctioned closed their doors shortly after being barred from Title IV programs.
It may also be possible that students who relied on misrepresentations from CSL to enroll in their programs could be eligible for debt relief under the federal borrower defense rule. Additionally, if CSL does in fact cease operations, some students may be eligible for a closed school loan discharge.
Publication Date: 12/20/2016