The American Bar Association has denied provisional accreditation to the Lincoln Memorial University, Duncan School of Law.

The ABA’s Council of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar voted not to approve the Knoxville, Tenn.-school’s accreditation application during its Dec. 2-3 meeting and informed the school on Dec. 20, according to a council memorandum.

Just two days earlier, Duncan was featured in a New York Times article about how the ABA’s lengthy and detailed accreditation standards contribute to the high cost of legal education. The article highlighted Duncan because the school is attempting to cut costs by measures including maintaining many library resources online rather than in hard copy.

The ABA did not detail why it denied the school’s application, and a spokeswoman said that confidentiality rules forbade officials from discussing the matter.

However, Duncan dean Sydney Beckman said the council had identified problems with the academic credentials of the school’s incoming students and the school’s ability to provide academic support to those students. School administrators disagreed with those findings, said Beckman, who noted that the council’s findings differed from those of the ABA site team that visited the campus.

“We demonstrated in that meeting that we clearly are in compliance with the standards,” he said. “It doesn’t appear that this decision was based on our compliance.”

Beckman said the school’s median score on the Law School Admission Test for three classes of incoming students was 147. He said those credentials met or exceeded those at some law schools that are accredited. According to ABA data, at least five accredited law schools have median LSAT scores of 147 or lower.

Lincoln Memorial University Chairman O.V. “Pete” DeBusk said in a written statement that national trends have harmed the school’s accreditation process.

“The national climate in higher education is changing and many of the national trends are contrary to what our service area in Appalachia is facing,” he said. “As an institution that is experiencing growth on many levels, but especially in the graduate and professional studies, [Lincoln Memorial University] is finding that accrediting bodies have slowed down the process tremendously.”

Duncan welcomed its inaugural class in fall 2009 for its part-time evening program. It added a full-time day program a year later and now has 187 students.

The school has 30 days in which to submit a written challenge, which would be considered by an appeals panel. If the school decides to appeal, the denial of provisional accreditation will be stayed until the appeal process is completed.

“We just received the decision today and we’re evaluating all our options,” Beckman said. “We’ll do what’s best for the school.”

In June, the ABA’s Council of Legal Education revoked provisional accreditation from the University of La Verne College of Law, citing low bar passage rates. The school had held provisional accreditation since 2006.

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