Legal Education

Florida Coastal’s financial aid reinstatement request denied; private equity firm pulls out

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Florida Coastal School of Law

The Florida Coastal School of Law. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday rejected a request to reinstate the Florida Coastal School of Law’s federal financial aid.

According to May 13 news release, the for-profit law school did not meet financial responsibility standards.

“Florida Coastal School of Law operated recklessly and irresponsibly, putting its students at financial risk rather than providing the opportunities they were seeking. Our commitment is to stand up for all students and ensure their institutions are held to the standards our students and communities expect and deserve,” said Richard Cordray, the DOE’s federal student aid chief operating officer, in the release.

The law school can submit factual evidence to dispute the findings and demonstrate that it was inaccurate within the next 10 days. Florida Coastal plans to do that, Peter Goplerud, its president and dean, announced in a Friday evening statement.

“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 statement reads.

The law school’s parent company is InfiLaw, an entity of the private equity firm Sterling Capital Partners. Audited financial statements for the law school “raises substantial doubt” that it can continue operating, according to the news release.

“Last month, the private equity firm that had owned 98.6% of the institution relinquished its ownership. This move demonstrated its unwillingness to assume any potential liabilities related to noncompliance rather than using its resources to support the school’s continued participation in the federal student financial aid programs,” the release states.

After the DOE in April announced that it terminated the law school’s access to federal student financial aid, the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar directed Florida Coastal to file a teach-out plan.

An executive committee of the section rejected the submitted plan later that month on the basis that it did not include required items or provide sufficient detail. According to Goplerud’s statement, the law school is speaking with the council this week.

Until the teach-out plan process is completed, Florida Coastal remains an ABA-accredited law school, Bill Adams, managing director of ABA accreditation and legal education, told the ABA Journal in April.

At one point, InfiLaw owned three for-profit law schools. The Arizona Summit School of Law entered into a teach-out plan in 2018, and the Charlotte School of Law shut down in 2017. Florida Coastal is the only InfiLaw school left in addition to being the only campus not placed on probation by the ABA.

Updated May 17 at 10:30 a.m. to include the statement from the Florida Coastal School of Law.

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