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Beating dead horses in American legal academic history (an apparently infinite series)

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Florida Coastal’s dean has sent a letter to the New York Times, claiming that last Sunday’s editorial regarding the general scamminess of for-profit law schools in particular, and bad law schools in general was “demonstrably false.” It’s a revealing fact about institutions like FCSL that even a letter like this, which you would think would be drafted with some care to avoid misrepresentations, is full of flat-out lies. For example:

The vast majority of our students do pass the bar. The ultimate pass rate for our students is 93%.

This statement couldn’t possibly be close to being true, because nothing like 93% of FCSL students ever even take the bar, let alone pass it. The academic attrition rate at the school is usually higher than 7%, and often much higher, which means of course that considerably less than 93% of FCSL students eventually become eligible to try to pass a bar exam. This isn’t merely a semantic point: until a couple of years ago, the school would flunk out a significant percentage of their matrics, thus leaving them with heavy debt loads (a single year’s COA is $65,000) and nothing else to show for their trouble. In this way the school could admit large numbers of students with very poor entrance credentials, while still protecting its bar passage rate. (In the past couple of years it seems to have abandoned this approach, instead going to a de facto open enrollment system while flunking out relatively few students. This is already having a catastrophic effect on the school’s bar passage rate, which is practically certain to fall even more than it already has).

In addition, the school’s two most recent graduating classes had first-time bar passage rates of 58% and 59%, which ensures that the eventual bar passage rate of the graduates (not the students) from those matriculating classes will have vastly lower eventual bar passage rates than the supposed 93% rate quoted in the letter (it would be interesting to see how that number was calculated).

On the other hand, a defensible statement on the dean’s part would have been, “While it’s true the recent bar passage rate of our graduates has been very bad, it hasn’t been atrocious, like that of the graduates of our sister Infilaw outfits Charlotte (47%), and Arizona Summit (30.6%).”

Moving right along:

Florida Coastal is a for-profit school. That means we do not have the benefit of taxpayer dollars to fund our students’ education. Yes, their debt load is higher but that is because taxpayers are not paying for our students’ education.

What does it mean for FCSL not “have the benefit of taxpayer dollars to fund” their operations? If it means not getting subsidies from the state legislature, the vast majority of law students (nearly 70%) attend law schools that don’t receive any such subsidies. If it means no tax dollars are finding their way into FCSL’s coffers, that’s not merely a false assertion, but the precise opposite of the truth. FCSL is almost wholly funded by tax dollars, in the form of federal educational loans. If such no-limit/no-doc loans were cut off the school would be closed overnight, as indeed it ought to be.

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