Law Schools

Zack, ABA Respond to Grassley Inquiry: Schools Aren't Misleading Scholarship Students

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U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) got a response Wednesday to the 31 detailed questions he had raised last week about the ABA’s law school accreditation process. And then some.

ABA President Stephen N. Zack, in a letter (PDF) to Grassley, said the ABA shares the senator’s concerns about the transparency of law school scholarship data. “No one could be more focused on the future of our next generation of lawyers than the ABA and the legal profession we serve,” he wrote.

Zack said that much of the senator’s concerns revolve around students making informed, thoughtful decisions, citing materials the ABA publishes that can help, including a paper called “The Value Proposition of Going to Law School” and the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, which contains chapters on financing a legal education, finding a job and a chart on law school tuition.

Attached to the letter was a separate memo (PDF) to Grassley from the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which, as the U.S. Department of Education’s recognized accreditor of law schools, is required to operate separately and independently of the ABA.

The memo addresses each of Grassley’s 31 questions, in order, grouped into four categories: scholarship information; student borrowing/debt; provisional and full approval of law schools; and section governance. It also contains nearly a dozen attachments totaling more than 60 pages.

In his letter (PDF) to Zack, Grassley had voiced particular concern about how the ABA regulates the distribution of merit-based scholarships. In its response, the section said that while the department doesn’t regulate the issuance of scholarships, all ABA-approved law schools are required to report all available grants and scholarships. It also said all scholarships come with requirements for retention, which usually include maintaining satisfactory academic performance. And it said it saw no evidence that law schools are declining to renew scholarships for reasons not set forth in the rules.

Grassley had also voiced particular concern that law schools are graduating more students than the economy can absorb. In its response, the section said that law schools are in the business of turning out lawyers and that denying accreditation to an otherwise-qualified law school would violate department regulations. It also said law school enrollments cannot and should not be affected by short-range economic developments.

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