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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

After Hiring Lobbyist Who Helped Get Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Confirmed, Charlotte Law School Gets Federal Student Loan Lifeline

Charlotte DOEFollowing up on my previous posts (links below):  National Law Journal, With New Lobbyists, Charlotte Law Disperses Federal Student Loans as School Year Ends:

The beleaguered Charlotte School of Law finally got some good news earlier this month when the U.S. Department of Education released federal loan money to some students just days before the spring semester ended. That development comes several months after the school hired a trio of lobbyists to make its case in Washington, one of whom helped shepherd Education Secretary Betsy DeVos through the confirmation process in January.

Charlotte had pushed unsuccessfully for the disbursement of the spring semester loans since December, when the Education Department withdrew the school’s federal loan eligibility—the lifeblood of colleges and universities—amid concern over the school’s accreditation status and admissions practices. The law school argued that students who had been approved for federal loans for the full school year were entitled to the entire amount, regardless of the timing of the department’s decision to cut it off from federal loans. An Education Department spokesman said last week that he did not have any information about the school’s federal loan status. Charlotte law spokeswoman Victoria Taylor confirmed that eligible students had received their federal loans for the spring. She declined further comment. ..

Charlotte offers an extreme example of the pressures bearing down on lower-tier law schools in recent years. Its predicament and uncertain future is the culmination of decisions administrators made amid a climate of declining enrollment, falling bar-pass rates, and a stagnant entry-level job market. ...

It’s unclear what the release of the spring semester loans means for the future of Charlotte, which laid off a large portion of the faculty in January as students left in droves.

The teetering school has asked the Education Department to reinstate it to the federal loan program, but had not received a response as of May 5, according to an email to students from president Chidi Ogene. The school appears to be pushing its case in Washington — Charlotte retained three lobbyists from the Podesta Group in February at a cost of $50,000, according to disclosure forms. That team includes Lauren Maddox, who prepped DeVos for her confirmation hearings. Maddox did not respond to requests for comment.

“The current appearance is that they got the deal they were hoping for and will now try to find some way to weasel their way back in [to the federal loan program],” said Ben Miller, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who studies higher education policy. “Certainly there is a reason for Charlotte to be more optimistic than it was.” ...

“It sounds like they’re buying access,” [Robert Shireman, a former Education Department official who is now a fellow at The Century Foundation,]  “Paying someone who has demonstrated access — there’s a lot of history that indicates that works.”

The Podesta Group team is undoubtedly working to help Charlotte return to federal loan eligibility, and they may also be working to ensure that any adverse developments at Charlotte don’t negatively impact the two other schools in the InfiLaw network, Miller said. The for-profit InfiLaw Inc. owns the Florida Coastal School of Law and Arizona Summit Law School, in addition to Charlotte. ...

“Are the steps the [Education] Department is taking making it more likely that Charlotte School of Law exists in the fall of 2017? Yes,” Miller said. “But there are still very real threats to this school.”

ABA Journal, Some Charlotte School of Law Students Receive Federal Loan Money

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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Having worked in DC for years, this is how government works. It is almost impossible for those without access to get the attention of decision makers. This is a non-story, but rather a description of how DC operates (and has operated for decades).

Posted by: Beau Baez | May 24, 2017 7:26:29 AM

Spread enough money around in the right places and the Feds will back off. Great ethics lesson for law students everywhere.

Posted by: Old Ruster | May 24, 2017 7:34:24 AM

With all of the political controversy in North Carolina, and after firing most of the faculty, Infilaw has a great opportunity to reshape the business model of Charlotte Law School. Arizona Summit and Florida Coastal can focus on scamming minority law students. Charlotte Law School can pivot and focus on scamming the alt right. In exchange for access to the Federal student loan program (and hosting the annual Infilaw retreat at Trump’s hotel), Charlotte Law School can hire alt right law professors who will churn out pro-Trump propaganda. Infilaw can even seek out the millions of dollars that the North Carolina legislature cut from UNC law for being too liberal.

Don’t tell me Infilaw has any morals. Charlotte had a 49% attrition rate the previous academic year. Over half of students with conditional scholarships had their scholarship revoked or reduced. Over 100 grads from the class of 2016 were still unemployed 10 months after graduation. The bar passage rate in February dropped to 25%. The mission of Charlotte is to collect student loan money, not produce lawyers.

Posted by: anon JD/MD | May 24, 2017 8:06:09 AM