JACKSONVILLE — A Florida law school
has failed the U.S. Department of Education’s gainful-employment
test, which measures debt-to-earnings ratios, according to a report
released by the agency last month.
Florida Coastal School of Law
in Jacksonville is at risk of being disqualified for federal student
loans if it fails gainful employment standards again next year, the
American Bar Association Journal reported
in a Jan. 11 article. Infilaw System is the parent company of Florida
Coastal and another school under DOE scrutiny, Charlotte School of
Law, which was placed on probation last fall when the school made
“substantial misrepresentations” to students regarding its ABA
compliance, the article stated.
“The demand for law schools is
down, and that’s put financial pressure on schools,” Kyle
McEntee, executive director and co-founder of the nonprofit Law
School Transparency, told the Florida Record. “Florida
Coastal in particular has had to cut their admission standards to
fill their classes. The school is setting up a lot of its graduates
to fail … it’s graduating them with massive debt and little hope
of finding a job.”
The gainful-employment regulations were
finalized in October 2014 and went into effect on July 1, 2015.
According to the DOE website,
the purpose of the regulations is “…to protect Americans from
poor career training programs by targeting those programs that leave
students buried in debt with few opportunities to repay it.”
the regulations, the annual loan payments of a school’s typical
graduate must not exceed 20 percent of their discretionary income or
8 percent of total income. Degree programs that exceed these levels
may be barred from participating in taxpayer-funded student financial
“When we were founded almost eight years ago, law schools
were not required to disclose information about job outcomes,”
McEntee said. “In fact, schools were misleading students with false
and incomplete information.”
His organization led a successful
public policy push to strengthen ABA requirements for accreditation.
“The net result is that there is a
lot more information available about the kind of jobs that graduates
get, which has put tremendous pressure on the schools because demand
dropped (steeply),” McEntee said.
Law schools are powerful institutions and not long ago everyone used to assume the deans of these schools were unimpeachable, McEntee said.
“If a dean talks, everyone listens
and assumes he is right. That’s no longer the case when it comes to
defending the value of a legal education," he said. "Journalists
are more skeptical.”
A recent story
in the Florida Times-Union reported that approximately 85 percent of
Florida Coastal students received loans or grants totaling $76
million in federal money as of spring 2012.
“We have been working hard to lower
student debt load in order to meet debt-to-earnings ratio set by
gainful employment,” Florida Coastal Dean Scott DeVito said in the
“Florida Coastal may be working hard, but the question is, are
they succeeding?” McEntee said. “There is zero evidence provided
publicly that they are. Our organization would be happy to review the
evidence and write about it in the various publications we partner
with. If there is evidence, it needs to be published.”