When I visited Florida Coastal last spring for my Dean interview, my prescription to turn the school around was drastic. I told them they should immediately rescind offers of admission and refund deposits and application fees for all students with an LSAT of 144 and below, and refuse to admit any more students at 144 and below. As readers of this blog well know, the response of the school’s president was to eject me from the campus.
With the release of the 2014 Standard 509 Information reports, it is now clear that my hope that InfiLaw might be willing to consider reversing their dramatic and utterly irresponsible downward admissions trajectory was a fantasy, because just when you thought they couldn’t possibly sink any lower, they have. As I have noted in previous posts, FCSL had gone from an acceptable 153/150/147 in 2008 and 2009 all the way to an appallingly low 148/144/141 in 2013. This year, they have dropped across the board and are now down to an abysmal 147/143/140 for the 446 students who matriculated in 2014. In five years, what used to be their 25th percentile (147) is now their 75th percentile. And for those who think a 7 point drop (from 147 to 140) doesn’t sound all that significant, trust me, it is. A 147 is in the 33rd percentile, whereas a 140 is in the 13th percentile, a 20 percent drop. And just in case you might be thinking that FCSL is taking people with low LSAT’s but high grades, they aren’t. The GPAs are also very low, with a median of 2.93. For reference, in 2006, the average college GPA was 3.11 and that number has likely continued to rise.
If FCSL had heeded my advice, well over half of the students who enrolled this fall would not have been admitted. The school's profits would be down, and undoubtedly they would have had to lay off many staff and faculty, but at least they would have been on a path to sustainability, and maybe even respectability. Instead, they have done everything in their power to make themselves a national laughingstock.
The only good news for FCSL is that their numbers aren’t quite as atrocious as their sister school, Charlotte School of Law. Charlotte matriculated even more students than Florida Coastal in 2014, 446 of them, with even lower entrance credentials. At 146/142/138 with a median GPA of 2.83, Charlotte has now officially admitted the least capable law school class of any significant size at an ABA-accredited school in U.S. history. Their part-time division, which at 127 students is larger than their cellar-dweller rival Ave Maria’s entering class, is shockingly weak, with a group profile of 142/138/136. That means they have 35 students in the evening division who come from the bottom 7% of LSAT takers. This is absolutely unconscionable.
The third law school in InfiLaw’s stable, Arizona Summit, had slightly higher, but still atrocious numbers, matriculating at least 131 students with an LSAT of 144 or below in 2014.
As I and others have noted, many law schools have lowered their standards and there are several with historically weak classes this year, with numbers that would have been unthinkable just 3 or 4 years ago. Ave Maria, Western Michigan Thomas Cooley, Thomas Jefferson, Faulkner, Southern, Texas Southern, Western New England, and Barry (full disclosure - I was on the Barry faculty from 2010-2, but never had anything to do with admissions) all have entering classes where their 75% percentile is below 150. But among these, only InfiLaw is making huge profits off of totally unqualified students, and that puts InfiLaw in a class (low) by itself.
If InfiLaw's management believes that they are meeting ABA Standard 501(b) (“A law school shall not admit applicants who do not appear capable of satisfactorily completing its educational program and being admitted to the bar”) by admitting scores of students from the bottom 10% of LSAT takers, they are not only deceiving the students, they are deluding themselves. What seems far more likely is that they know quite well that these students have little chance of graduating (unless they also significantly lower their performance standards) and passing the bar.
InfiLaw should be promptly and thoroughly investigated not only by the ABA and Department of Education but by the Higher Education Commissions in the states where they operate and the Consumer Protection Divisions of the Florida, North Carolina and Arizona State Attorney Generals' Offices, and/or DoJ. They must not be permitted to continue to operate in this disgraceful manner.