Bar Exams, Law Schools, Student Loans

For-Profit Law Schools Offer Miniscule ‘Refund’ As A Publicity Stunt

In a story that Ethan Bronner of the New York Times will repackage nine months from now and pretend like it is new, the National Law Journal tells us that two for-profit law schools are offering refunds to students who can’t pass the bar.

It only sounds nice if you don’t read the fine print, though in fairness, people who go to for-profit law schools are probably not the best at even identifying the fine print, much less at reading it and understanding how it might apply to their lives.

Still, I don’t know what kind of mathematically challenged people think that getting a $10K refund after spending nearly $120K to go to law school and not passing the bar is a good deal….

The NLJ reports on two pilot “refund” programs predicated on poor student performance:

Florida Coastal School of Law is offering [a $10,000] refund to students dismissed for academic reasons following their 1L year, plus $2,000 to those who fail to secure a externship, clerkship, clinical experiences or other substantive legal work while in school.

The Charlotte School of Law has launched its own pilot program offering $10,000 to graduates tripped up more than once by the bar exam. Both are for-profit law schools operated by InfiLaw Inc., which also owns the Phoenix School of Law.

The program is called the Assured Outcomes Partnership. More on that name later.

There are, of course, strings attached to getting even this paltry amount of money back. You have to attend all manner of remedial courses, and fail the bar multiple times — you basically have to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that you are not capable of becoming a practicing attorney.

Which begs the question, “Why did they admit these people in the first place?” I think we all know the answer to that question. Because giving people $10K back after charging them nearly $40K per year to come to school still leaves a lot of profit for the law school that admits students it knows are unlikely to pass the bar or find a job.

But let’s take a step back for a second and get a grip on what these schools are doing beyond fleecing the math illiterate. InfiLaw, which owns both of these schools, is looking at a market where law school applications are down and students are increasingly leery of taking on law school debt in such a shaky job market. So what do they do? They market something called the “Assured Outcomes Partnership.” Just look at the name, as Justice Scalia might say. They’re now “assuring” “outcomes” (!!!) to students who work in “partnership” with their law schools.

Problem solved! Go to a for-profit law school and they will assure your outcome (up to $10,000, subject to restrictions).

It’s an argument that will only work on stupid people, but that’s kind of the point. These for-profit law schools are trying to take advantage of stupid people, and this program is kind of a trap for the dumb.

“Hey, $10,000 is better than nothing,” some will say. But it’s not if it induces you into a $100K investment with little hope of valuable return. Hopefully the marks of this program will think before they sign up.

Two law schools offer a money-back guarantee — with strings attached [National Law Journal]

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