Charlotte School of Law is closing. That's after its license expired last week and the American Bar Association denied the school's plan to move forward. The North Carolina Attorney General's Office said today the school can't operate and, if it does, it will force it to close.
MARK RUMSEY: So, Lisa, we just went through what the Attorney General and ABA have to say. What have Charlotte School of Law officials said?
LISA WORF: Nothing yet. School administrators haven't made any public statements, nor responded to questions, nor even contacted students. But the school's interim dean Paul Meggett has been calling faculty members telling them that's the case. He also called the school's alumni president Lee Robertson. Robertson was the one who actually broke the news this morning that the school was indeed shutting down, immediately. It's also worth noting the school's website is down too.
RUMSEY: What does this mean for students who are currently enrolled?
WORF: It means they won't be receiving a degree from Charlotte School of Law, at least unless there's a major reversal.
RUMSEY: How many students are we talking about?
WORF: I've asked the school that several times over the past few weeks and have heard nothing back. But Robertson thinks it's 100 at the most, but likely quite a bit lower than that. Now, the fall semester was scheduled to start August 28th, but the school was in the process of wrapping up summer classes. So you have some students, who have essentially completed all their credits to graduate, but won't be getting a degree or will have to transfer and repeat a lot of classes to get one. Now, students would've had more protections, including a better shot at completing their degrees had the school simply decided to close.
RUMSEY: How's that?
WORF: When the school lost its federal loan money in December, the Department of Education required Charlotte School of Law to come up with what's called a teach-out plan. In other words, a plan to make sure students could complete their degrees at another school. The school needed to get approval for that from the American Bar Association. But instead Charlotte School of Law leaders hoped the Trump administration would reinstate the federal loan money. That didn't happen and the latest plan the school submitted to the ABA was to remain open as a degree-granting institution. In its decision to reject that plan, the chair of the ABA's council of legal education wrote it wasn't clear that could happen, especially since the school's operating license had already expired. But he did invite Charlotte School of Law to submit another plan that reflects the reality of the situation.
RUMSEY: What does the school's closure mean financially for students?
WORF: Charlotte School of Law tuition runs about $44,000 a year. The North Carolina Attorney General's Office says students who were recently enrolled are entitled to complete loan forgiveness. That's under the federal closed school discharge rule. However, the AG's offices says if students take that, any credits they have have completely canceled out. As far as, what qualifies as "recently enrolled",I'm not sure. Attorney General Josh Stein did say in a statement, he wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos today, urging her to declare this an exceptional circumstance and expand loan forgiveness rights to all students who left Charlotte School of Law during or after the 2016 fall semester.
RUMSEY: How are students and alumni reacting?
WORF: This morning students were trying to just figure out whether the school was indeed operating or not. Louie Gonzalez was set to complete his degree after wrapping up a research project due this coming Sunday. Now, it looks like he's done nearly all the work for a degree, but won't have one. He got a call from his professor to continue working on the project, but he wasn't optimistic.
GONZALEZ: These three years have cost me in ways that the law school could never even possibly comprehend and to hear that they've hung us out to dry is very disconcerting. It's disappointing. It's painful.
WORF: And the school's alumni president Lee Robertson says alums are just trying to figure out what it means to have a degree from a closed school, especially recent alums as they apply for jobs. They have questions about even simple things like how potential employers will verify their degrees and attendance at the school.