Yesterday, the ABA announced that it was placing Arizona Summit Law School on probation. (See ABA Journal story here.) Arizona Summit is following on the heels of its sister school, Charlotte School of Law, which was placed on probation back in November. The ABA gave similar reasons for the action, namely, non-compliance with ABA Standards 301(a), 308(a), 309(b), 501(b) and Interpretation 501-1 and 501-2. The ABA also noted the poor graduation rates (high attrition rates) and bar passage outcomes at the school.
This action could very well result in the closure of Arizona Summit. Arizona Summit had, as of December, 381 students, including 143 1Ls (down from 4501Ls in 2011 and 447 in 2012). It is very likely that most students in good academic standing will try to transfer out this summer. No student wants to be at a school that might lose its accreditation. While those with just one year left are likely to have few options other than to remain, the bulk of the 1Ls and part time students who are less than halfway through their programs will try to leave. Those with good grades and a reasonable prospect of passing the bar will be accepted at other law schools and will transfer. The students that will be left behind will be the “worst of the worst” who are extremely likely to fail the bar, making it unlikely that Arizona Summit will be able to achieve the necessary improvements in their bar passage rate (Arizona Summit's most recent pass rates have been in the 20s and 30s). If the top third or more of the class transfer, there will be virtually no students left who are likely to pass the bar on the their first attempt. Meanwhile, it will be very difficult to recruit incoming students for the fall semester and virtually impossible to attract students with significantly better entrance credentials, which is what would be required to get back into compliance with ABA Standards and avoid losing accreditation. Arizona Summit's 2016 entering class had an abysmal 148/143/140 and 3.31/2.96/2.55, meaning that the vast majority of the class is at very high or extremely high risk of failure. Indeed, it is likely that many of the students already admitted who may have expressed an intent to matriculate or put down a deposit will change their mind. Prospective students accepted to any other law school that is not on probation are likely to go there instead, and those only admitted to Arizona Summit may have second thoughts about attending at all. The combined effect of huge numbers of transfers and a dramatic decrease in new matriculants will be a substantial reduction in revenues for Arizona Summit, which is already badly hurting after multiple years of rapidly dwindling revenues. Based on recent history at other InfiLaw schools, I would expect the school's Dean to declare a Reduction in Force very soon, followed by firing half or more of the faculty at the conclusion of the spring semester. Arizona Summit faculty members would be well-advised to start updating their CVs.