DAYTONA BEACH — Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU), a historically black university in Daytona Beach, has entered into an affiliation agreement with Arizona Summit Law School.
Accreditors still need to approve the deal, and that might be easier said than done.
Leaders were hoping the affiliation would help diversify the law profession. But Arizona Summit, located in Phoenix, was placed on probation by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Arizona Summit’s bar passage rate fell to 25 percent for first-time test takers in July 2016.
The for-profit Arizona school is owned by the InfiLaw System, which also owns the Florida Coastal School of Law and the Charlotte School of Law. The Charlotte school also was placed on probation by the ABA and is not eligible for federal financial aid.
Arizona Summit’s president told the Arizona Republic that the school is trying to become a nonprofit institution. In order to attain that goal, the enrollment at the Arizona school has dropped from 1,000 students to 300 students.
“It’s imperative for us to do things we need to do to establish compliance with standards,” Donald Lively, Arizona Summit president, said, according to Inside Higher Ed. “But it’s equally important that we need to preserve our mission.”
Lively said the school was working on ABA compliance. It has advanced toward that goal by eliminating an alternative admissions program that guaranteed a spot at the school regardless of grades or LSAT scores if students completed a seven-week online law course.
It was unclear whether B-CU knew about the Arizona’s school probation when it agreed to the affiliation agreement last month
B-CU leaders, though, defended the decision to enter into the agreement.
Randy Nelson, chairman of B-CU's criminal justice department and an assistant professor of criminal justice, told the New York Times that the agreement “guarantees slots for up to 100 qualified B-CU students who would receive full-scholarships (inclusive of living expenses). The agreement includes front-end LSAT preparation and back-end bar examination preparation services,” for a total cost to Arizona Summit of about $12.5 million.
Nelson also told the Times that if B-CU can not fill the 100 spots, it may recruit other historically black college students from other schools to fill out the remaining scholarships.
“Given these components of the agreement, it would be irresponsible not to provide this opportunity as an option for B-CU students to obtain a legal education without incurring excessive student loan debt in the process," he told the Times.
The next big date in this saga is May 15. The Arizona school has to submit a “written reliable plan for bringing the law school in compliance.”
In the meantime, the ABA may hold hearings about the status of the Arizona law school.
According to federal data, full-time students at Arizona Summit pay a little more than $45,000 in tuition and a little more than $67,000 for housing, transportation, meals and books.