The American Bar Association has placed Arizona Summit Law School on probation for violating a number of its standards, including rules covering admissions, bar passage and academic support.
Arizona Summit becomes the latest campus to be disciplined by the ABA since the summer, when the organization’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar began cracking down on underperforming law schools amid public and government pressure.
The ABA’s Accreditation Committee found Arizona Summit in violation of five of its law school standards, according to a public notice of the probation decision made public Monday. The school did not contest those findings, the public notice said.
An Arizona Summit spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
A similar probation decision by the ABA in November regarding Arizona Summit’s sister school, the Charlotte School of Law, prompted the U.S. Department of Education to withdraw that school’s federal student loan eligibility the following month. Losing access to federal loans sent Charlotte into a tailspin, and it’s still unclear if the struggling school will remain open. Arizona Summit, Charlotte and Florida Coastal School of Law are all owned by the for-profit InfiLaw Inc.
Despite the schools’ troubles, the new leadership of the Education Department is believed by experts to be friendlier to for-profit institutions such as Charlotte and Arizona Summit. Thus, it’s not clear whether the ABA’s latest action will imperil Arizona Summit’s federal loan eligibility.
When reached by The Arizona Republic Monday, Arizona Summit President Donald Lively declined to go into detail about the ABA’s decision.
“However, I can say that we will continue to be taking the steps required by the ABA to demonstrate full compliance with its standards,” Lively told the newspaper.
The council’s public notice of the probation offered a forceful rebuke of Arizona Summit’s program, and cited a myriad of problems.
“The Council determined that the Law School’s admission practices, academic program (including its academic standards and academic support), and outcomes (graduation and bar passage), have resulted in the Law School now being in a position where only immediate and substantial action can bring about sufficient change to put the law school on a realistic path back into being in compliance within the time allowed by the Standards and Rules of Procedure,” the council’s notice reads.
The school violated the rule requiring that it admit only students who appear capable of graduating and passing the bar, as well as the rule that it “maintain a rigorous program of legal education that prepares its students, upon graduation, for admission to the bar and for effective, ethical, and responsible participation as members of the legal profession.”
Just 25 percent of Arizona Summit’s first-time takers passed the July 2016 bar exam, according to state bar examiners. By contrast, 77 percent of students from Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law passed, as did 74 percent from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.
Arizona Summit must take a series of steps to demonstrate compliance with the ABA rules or risk losing its accreditation when the Accreditation Committee and the council re-examine the school in the fall.
Arizona Summit must provide the ABA with detailed data on the Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages of all 2017 matriculants, and explain any factors the school considered outside those metrics when admitting individual students. The school must also inform all admitted students that it has been placed on probation.
Arizona Summit must also inform current students of the school’s bar pass rates from the past three years, broken down by quartiles, and tell those students which quartile they fall in. That should give students a realistic idea of their bar passage odds.
The ABA is sending a fact finder to the Phoenix campus to examine the school’s finances, tuition and admission policies.
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ.