The embattled Arizona Summit Law School won’t hold classes this fall as it fights for survival.
The American Bar Association revoked the school’s accreditation in June—a decision Arizona Summit has appealed—and it informed its dwindling student body in an email late last week that it will not open as scheduled later this month. The school did not say it was closing outright, however, and maintained that it was working toward a formal “teach-out” plan that would allow existing students to complete their studies.
Asked for comment Tuesday, the school issued a statement saying that its appeal to hold onto ABA accreditation is pending.
“Arizona Summit has announced to its students that there will not be classes this fall, and that Summit is negotiating with another law school for a teach out,” the statement reads.
But the school’s email to students paints a dire picture of its prospects.
“As [Arizona Summit] will not be offering classes in the fall, [Arizona Summit] will not offer any scholarships going forward to any [Arizona Summit] students,” the email reads. “The [Arizona Summit] Library is not available; however, the ASU law library is open and available to the public.”
If Arizona Summit never reopens, it will be the second of InfiLaw Corp.’s three for-profit law schools to close in the span of a year. The Charlotte School of Law closed last August after losing its federal student loan eligibility and its license to operate within North Carolina. InfiLaw’s third school, Florida Coastal School of Law, remains open.
Meanwhile, the nearby Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has agreed to accept Arizona Summit students who are within one semester of graduating as visitors this semester, said ASU assistant dean Thomas Williams. That arrangement will allow visiting students the ability to complete their legal studies and graduate with an Arizona Summit law degree, he said.
But ASU opted against admitting Arizona Summit students with fewer credits out of fear that they would be left high and dry if Arizona Summit closes shop. (Arizona Summit remains ABA accredited during the appeals process, and because a decision is not expected until October, it will be able to confer degrees in December even if its appeal is unsuccessful, according to Williams.)
It’s unclear how many current Arizona Summit students are within a semester of graduating, but those who go to ASU as visitors will pay ASU tuition, which at $27,584 annually is significantly lower than Arizona Summit’s $45,354 annual cost.
ASU was scheduled to hold an informational session for Arizona Summit students on Tuesday afternoon, as eligible visitors need to make decisions quickly. Classes start at ASU on Wednesday.
Arizona Summit approached ASU in July to discuss a teach-out plan in which current Arizona Summit students could finish their classes at ASU but get an Arizona Summit law degree. But the two schools have yet to reach an agreement, and such a plan would require the blessing of the American Bar Association, the U.S. Department of Education and the university, Williams said. There was not enough time to put such a plan in place by the start of the fall semester, he said. Should a formal teach-out agreement be reached, it wouldn’t start until January, he added.
Arizona Summit had about 100 students when those teach-out talks began, but withdrawals and transfers have brought that figure down to about 80, Williams said.
“Their students are clearly unhappy,” Williams said. “They are unhappy with Summit, and some of them are unhappy with us because they think we should be solving this problem for them. We’ll see what happens.”
Established in 2005, Arizona Summit has struggled with falling enrollment and low bar pass rates for years, but its situation worsened in March 2017 when the ABA put the school on probation for violating the standards intended to prevent schools from admitting students who are unlikely to graduate and pass the bar, among other shortcomings.
And then in June, the ABA revoked Arizona Summit’s accreditation, apparently the first time it has yanked its seal of approval from a fully accredited law school.
Arizona Summit sued the ABA in May, along with Florida Coastal and Charlotte School of Law, alleging that the ABA standards are unlawfully vague and applied unevenly across schools. A federal judge on Monday stayed the Arizona Summit litigation while the ABA considers the school’s appeal.