Paul L. Caron

Monday, May 17, 2021

Florida Coastal Law School Appeals Elimination Of Federal Student Loans For Its Students

Following up on Friday's post, U.S. Department Of Education Kicks Florida Coastal Law School Out Of Federal Student Loan Program:

Florida Coast Press Release (May 14, 2021):

Florida Coast School of Law (FCSL) is disputing the findings released yesterday by the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) in a letter and press release denying the school’s reinstatement into the Title IV program. FCSL believes the ED was in error in its decision not to reinstate the school to the federal aid program and will be appealing the decision. The school will present evidence that shows it is in good standing and has been focused on the well-being of its students.

“I was perplexed by the ED’s decisions and disagree on many points they made in the letter and press release,” said Peter Goplerud, president and dean of FCSL. “In quotes released by the ED, they called us reckless and irresponsible with the students’ futures which could not be further from the truth. Our students are the sole focus of everything we are doing and always have been. We are putting together the factual evidence of the successes of our graduates and will be going point by point to refute the ED’s claims.”

The ED claimed the law school failed to meet financial responsibility standards and the fiduciary standard of conduct citing audits. FCSL believes they misread and mischaracterized critical parts of the audited financial statements.

The school improved its financials between 2019 and 2020 and is on track to improve its financial position in the fiscal year 2021 as noted in the statements. The audits for the fiscal year 2019 and 2020 stated the school’s plans would provide an improved financial position for the future, which it did between 2019 and 2020. The audit also states its plan will provide “an improved financial position in future reporting periods and allow the Company to settle its liabilities and commitments in the normal course of business.”

The ED asserted that FCSL officials refused to sign a program participation agreement which is also not the case. The ED was asking a senior investor to sign the agreement which it never had before and the investor could not without violating the terms of the agreement with its investors. In the original denial in March, the ED failed to give a reason for the requirement and for its belief that the investor’s legal arguments were insufficient. The department also said the law school failed to inform them of accreditation issues which the school refutes. The ABA includes the ED in all communications related to accreditation for any accredited law school.

“There have been instances over the years where compliance issues have been raised, but we have consistently rectified such matters,” said Goplerud. “We are an accredited ABA school and we have adhered to the standards and regulatory requirements of the federal student financial aid programs. Our graduates are among the best and brightest attorneys and we are proud of what they have accomplished.”

FCSL bar pass results in recent years have outperformed peer institutions in Florida. The February 2021 exam results released in March showed the law school graduates scored six points above the statewide pass rate and ahead of five of the 11 Florida law schools. The latest employment data also shows 93 percent employment for the class of 2020. FCSL graduates are among the leadership of the Jacksonville Bar Association, one is President of the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar and another graduate serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of the Florida Bar Association. The school also has alumni who serve in the Florida House of Representatives and the South Carolina House of Representatives.

FCSL has 10 days to submit its appeal to ED and the school administration plans to do so. The school has been in communication with all students, faculty and staff to keep them informed of the situation. A teach-out plan has also been submitted to the ABA as required. The ABA should inform the school of its decision on the plan next week.

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