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Law schools required to disclose attrition rates

By Laura Ernde
Staff Writer

Unaccredited law schools in California will be required to report student attrition rates under a new rule approved last month by the State Bar Board of Trustees.

The State Bar’s Committee of Bar Examiners proposed the rule to provide greater transparency and effective disclosures to students. It will go into effect June 1. The committee oversees registered, unaccredited law schools in the state and accredited law schools in California that are not approved by the American Bar Association.

Unaccredited schools were already required to disclose in writing to current and prospective students a number of things including bar exam passage rates once a year, before the student pays tuition.

Now, students will be notified in writing of the school’s attrition rates for the past five years. A Los Angeles Times report last year found that about 85 percent of students at unaccredited schools don’t finish their studies.

Trustee Miriam Krinsky said the proposal will increase transparency.

“Consumers are entitled to know what the product is they’re purchasing,” she said.

Deans at several unaccredited schools said the high dropout rates do not tell the full story. Most students that go to unaccredited schools are working adults who may decide for various reasons not to continue their law studies.

“They typically have significant responsibilities outside school, such as families, careers, aging parents, etc.,” Northwestern California University School of Law Dean Michael P. Clancey said in a letter to the committee. “For many of them, life simply gets in the way of their plans for the study of law.”

Good refund policies are a better way to deal with high attrition rates, he said.

Trustee Brandon Stallings, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, said unaccredited schools provide opportunities in underserved areas of the state and expressed concern that the same disclosures are not required for California-accredited law schools.

The board requested that the committee study whether California-accredited law schools should also be required to disclose attrition rates.