Accrediting body denies Charlotte School of Law teach-out plan

Updated: Aug. 14, 2017 at 9:59 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The American Bar Association rejected a teach-out plan proposed by the Charlotte School of Law. School administrators, faculty and staff were notified of the decision Monday, multiple sources said.

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is currently holding its annual meeting in New York.

According to the ABA, a teach-out plan "means a written plan developed by a law school that provides for the equitable treatment of students if the law school ceases to operate before all students have completed their program of study, and may include, if required, a teach-out agreement between law schools."

An ABA spokesman declined to comment when asked Monday to provide details of the decision to reject the school's teach-out plan.

Essentially, a teach-out plan allows students at a law school to finish their education while the school begins the process of closing.

The ABA guidance on teach-out plans lists four circumstances in which a teach-out plan is necessary, including when a state licensing authority revokes a school's license, when the US Department of Education initiates emergency action against an institution or when the ABA's Accreditation Committee recommends or the Council acts to withdraw, terminate or suspend the accreditation of the law school.

On Friday, WBTV was first to report that CSL's state operating license had expired. The schools is licensed by the UNC Board of Governors, which had granted CSL a limited license in June.

Among the requirements stipulated by the BoG in June was that the law school qualify for federal financial aid by August 10; otherwise, the school's license would expire.

Charlotte School of Law failed to qualify for federal student financial aid by August 10 as required and, therefore, its license expired, a spokesman for the UNC Board of Governors said.

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office also confirmed on Friday that the AG had requested proof from the school that it had a license to operate.

A school issued the following statement Friday in response to WBTV's reporting:

Charlotte School of Law is actively working to meet the conditions set out by our state licensing authority and that authority is aware of our progress. Accordingly, CSL has asked the UNC Board for an extension of time to meet all conditions set, as we believe we will be able to demonstrate compliance in short order.

WBTV obtained an exclusive copy of the letter sent by Charlotte School of Law to the UNC Board of Governors regarding its state license.

Document: Click here to read the letter sent from CSL to UNC BoG

The letter, sent on August 10 - the day its license expired - acknowledged the school was not eligible for federal student aid but argued the state should extend its license anyways.

"CSL believes that it has complied with each and every one of the above conditions, including the affirmative decision by the DOE, in accordance with its July 27, 2017 letter, to allow CSL to regain Title IV eligibility, provided certain conditions, all accepted by CSL, including the provisions of the LOC, are met," the school wrote in its August 10 letter.

"The rendering of formal restoration of Title IV participation is therefore a ministerial task and it would be manifestly against the interests of the CSL students who have committed to continuing their legal education for the BOG to make a determination of noncompliance and suspend the license to operate," the letter continued.

Attorney Lee Robertson, who leads the Charlotte School of Law Alumni organization, said he remains focused on the ability for the roughly 100 students still enrolled at CSL to complete their legal education.

"I, and the rest of the alumni, remain deeply concerned about the ability of our students to complete their legal education," Robertson said in a statement Monday night.

"Without a teach-out plan, it appears these students' only option is to transfer to a different school, and in the process, likely lose thousands of dollars and years of their lives. The Charlotte School of Law should submit—and the ABA should approve—a teach-out plan that will permit these students to complete their legal education without further disruption," Robertson continued.

A spokeswoman for Charlotte School of Law did not return an email seeking comment Monday night.

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