Law Schools

Charlotte School of Law prof seeks donations to help students with food and rent

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Charlotte School of Law

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Charlotte School of Law students with their living expenses after a recent U.S. Department of Education decision that they will not receive federal loan money for the spring semester.

Also, the law school is reportedly offering students interest-free $1,000 loans (PDF).

A Charlotte School of Law spokeswoman told the ABA Journal that the school is continuing its effort to try and get students federal financial aid.

“We are happy that Charlotte Law’s faculty, staff, and alumni are working to assist our students in this time of need,” she said.

As of Monday afternoon, the GoFundMe page had raised $5,675 toward a goal of $250,000.

“I want to help them. I can’t imagine how I would have succeeded in law school in the circumstances that CSL students face,” Scott Sigman, a Charlotte School of Law professor who started the donations, wrote on the site. “Plenty of arguments exist out there about the genesis of the circumstances and the loss of financial aid for these students, but this is not the space for that conversation. This is the place to recognize that there are hardworking, deserving students who should be able to finish what they started. They simply need some assistance right now to do so.”

Sigman, director of the school’s clinical programs, has also set up a student food pantry at the law school, the Charlotte Observer reports. CSL students last year received approximately $50 million in federal school loans for tuition and living expenses, according to the article.

The U.S. Department of Education announced in December that Charlotte School of Law’s student federal aid was in jeopardy, after if found that the school made substantial misrepresentations to current and prospective students regarding its compliance with ABA accreditation standards. The federal loan money was officially cut off Jan. 18, reportedly because the law school backed away from a teach-out agreement with the department. The school said that it would continue to try and get student loan money with the Trump administration.

Classes at the law school started Jan. 23. Current students told the ABA Journal that class sizes are significantly smaller, and it’s been reported that some faculty have been laid off.

If the department changes its position and releases federal funds to Charlotte School of Law students, the school’s $1,000 loan contract states that any money owed will be collected before remaining federal funds are disbursed.

If a student withdraws or is dismissed from CSL, the $1,000 loan could be placed in default, according to the contract. Otherwise, loan repayment is due in Jan. 15, 2018.

The ABA first informed the law school that it was out of compliance with various standards in February 2016, and again in July 2016. At neither time was the information shared with current or prospective students, according to the Department of Education. The standards in question include 301(a), which states that law schools must maintain a legal education program that prepares students to be lawyers, and 501(a) and (b), which address admissions policies and practices.

Charlotte School of Law appealed the ABA finding, which was upheld (PDF) in October. At that time, the Council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar placed the law school on probation. It remains an ABA-accredited law school.

Barry Currier, managing director for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, was not available for comment at press time. The section in December issued a FAQ sheet (PDF) about the Department of Education’s findings. It noted that the law school had been placed on probation, and the notice “spells out the process” for what the school should do to remove itself from probation status. It also stated that the Department of Education action was a “separate action” from the accreditation process.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. to include comment from Charlotte School of Law.

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