Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter on July 11 to ABA President Stephen Zack “to express concern after reading a June 9, 2011 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that reported that the American Bar Association (ABA) 'was found to be out of compliance with 17 regulations, including the need to consider student-loan default rates in assessing programs.'” He continued:
My concern is that the ABA, which has the power to accredit law schools, was barely granted renewed recognition by the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation experts. Moreover, in the eyes of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, the ABA appears to be doing little to assess student-loan default rates in its law school accreditation process.
The New York Times also addressed similar issues in an April 30, 2011 article regarding what many law students interviewed by the New York Times referred to as a “bait and switch” practice regarding merit-based scholarships. According to the New York Times, ABA accredited law schools “offer more scholarships than [they] plan to renew[.]” One result of this practice is that many law students lose their merit-based scholarships after their first year because they failed to maintain a certain grade-point average. The New York Times articles raised concerns that some schools appear to set their grading curves in a manner which results in a large number of students losing their merit-based scholarships.
Senator Grassley then requested that the ABA provide written answers to 31 questions by July 25, 2011. The questions relate mainly to student financial issues such as student scholarships, loan repayment education programs, and programs to prevent default on student loans.
Some of the questions, though, relate to the number of law schools that the ABA has accredited in the last 20 years, as well as the qualifications of the accreditation committee members.
Another article about Senator Grassley’s letter appears in the National Law Journal today.