Charlotte School of Law will reopen, students told - | WBTV Charlotte

Charlotte School of Law will reopen, students told

Davie Hinshaw | The Charlotte Observer Davie Hinshaw | The Charlotte Observer

CHARLOTTE, NC (Mark Washburn, Michael Gordon | The Charlotte Observer) Charlotte School of Law – battling lawsuits from students, a federal cutoff of student loans and financial problems – told students Friday night that it would reopen for the spring semester.

“We are very pleased to announce that after extensive discussions with our regulators, we will be starting classes as scheduled,” the school told students in an email.

Classes will begin on Jan. 17, one day later than scheduled.

Spokeswoman Victoria Taylor said Friday night that officials at the school would not immediately be available for comment on the news, which signaled that third-year students would be able to graduate.

Students were told earlier that administrators had determined that at least 500 students – about two-thirds of its current enrollment – would need to commit to taking classes this spring for the school to reopen.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Margaret Kocaj, a third-year student one semester from graduation. “However, because there is no information about funding, I remain cautiously optimistic.”

R. Lee Robertson Jr., president of the school’s alumni association, said in a statement that the group “is thrilled that our students can resume their legal educations. We are looking forward to hearing about these plans and how our Association can assist these students.”

CSL told students at mid-week that it was trying to make arrangements with Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville – a sister institution in the three-school InfiLaw chain – for students to complete their studies and receive an ABA-accredited degree.

In November, the accrediting American Bar Association put the law school on probation, citing longstanding failings in the school’s admissions policies, curriculum and pass rates on the bar exam. It accused the school’s leaders of trying to hide the problems from current and future students.

In December, the Department of Education cut off access to federal student loans and other financial aid, saying that Charlotte School of Law students were being saddled with up to $200,000 in loan debt while having little chance of landing jobs or salaries necessary to pay the money back, leaving taxpayers with the bill.

Last year, students at CSL received nearly $50 million from the Department of Education for tuition, fees and expenses.

Charlotte was the largest city in the nation without a law school when the for-profit school opened in 2006. It had problems with passage rates on the N.C. Bar exam from the start.

In 2009, the school’s first 53 graduates took the bar exam; 67 percent passed, the lowest rate among the state’s seven law schools.

By comparison, Elon University, which launched a law school the same year as the Charlotte School of Law, had its first 98 graduates take the bar exam at the same time and 83 percent passed. Law schools at Campbell and Wake Forest universities at that time had the top passing rates in the state of 91 percent.

Charlotte School of Law’s first-time bar exam passage rate peaked in 2010 at 87 percent. By 2013, it had fallen to 58 percent while the state’s average was 71 percent. Its winter bar exam rate in 2016 hit a low of 35 percent when the state average was 51 percent.

Two federal lawsuits have been filed by students charging the school with deception, fraud and breach of contract.

CSL earlier announced it would not accept any new students in the coming semester.

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