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Education

Lots Of Questions, Few Answers On Charlotte School Of Law's Future

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Julie Rose
/
WFAE

Charlotte School of Law is not planning to enroll any new students this coming semester and it's unclear classes will resume for current students.

School leaders have been tight-lipped since the Department of Education announced in December it will no longer receive any federal loan money. The department says the school is out of compliance with ABA standards and misrepresented its rocky status to students.

Still, the school's president Chidi Ogene and dean Jay Conison wrote in an email to students Friday that they are "cautiously optimistic" they'll soon be able to share some "positive news."

"I'm not sure what universe they're living in, but I don't know anyone I've talked to who is cautiously optimistic that any beneficial solution will be reached," says Charlotte School of Law student Andrew Howe. He's 31 and three classes away from graduating.

Nothing else in the email is promising. They said they won't be enrolling new students this coming semester. As for current students, they said nothing about classes resuming at the end of break in two weeks. Instead, they wrote they're working on what they call a teach-out plan with Florida Coastal School of Law to "facilitate greater transfer opportunities." Like Charlotte School of Law, it's owned by the for-profit company InfiLaw. 

Howe says that's not a genuine offer to help. 

"You got to be kidding. We're potentially unable to finish at Charlotte based on the decisions of the administration in running the school, so you want us to go to another school that's essentially run by the same people?" says Howe.

Charlotte School of Law has the highest rate of first year students dropping out due to academic reasons. Florida Coastal has the second highest.  The Department of Education pointed that out in its letter detailing the decision to bar the Charlotte school from receiving federal loan money.   

Mulling the Options

Howe's scholarship covers most of the $45,000 in tuition and fees.  That made Charlotte School of Law a big draw, plus it's only 40 miles from his home in Spencer.

"At that point, I think there were some rumblings that their bar passage rate wasn't as good as other schools, but everything from the school, everything I read said they're still a law school. They're still accredited. There's no issue," says Howe.

So he quit his job as a high school teacher and used federal loans to support his family. Howe knows other students have filed lawsuits against the school, but he just wants to find some way to graduate.  

"My wife and I have concluded that maybe there's no best case scenario, but there's a list of scenarios that go from not-so-good to almost tragic," says Howe.

For example, Charlotte School of Law remains open. He takes out a private loan and gets a degree that, he says, doesn't appear to be worth a whole lot. Or he transfers to another school, loses half of his credits, and tries again. Howe has asked the school for a copy of his transcript and a transfer packet and has heard nothing back. 

"I think the worst case scenario is, after looking at all the options I just decide to walk away," says Howe. 

It's a list of bad options many other Charlotte School of Law students are now mulling. 

The school had until yesterday to ask the Department of Education to reconsider its decision, but the school says the department has granted it an extension. 

Charlotte School of Law Emails

Charlotte School of Law sends out nearly daily emails to students. Many of them include a variation of this phrase: "We continue to work intensely towards securing a commitment from the DOE to maintain funding for the spring semester."  

Here's the one sent Friday December 30, 2016:

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Here's one sent Thursday December 23, 2016:

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Two groups of students seek possible class action lawsuit

Krebs, Switzer, Wyatt, Roberts v. Charlotte School of Law

Barchiesi, Hadzic v. Charlotte School of Law