The American Bar Association has been trying to crack down on schools that allow students to rack up huge debt but show low bar passage or employment rates. At the same time, the ABA has fought for greater diversity in the bar. Those two policies collided this week over a proposal to require at least 75 percent of law students at accredited schools to pass the bar exam no later than two years after their graduations. That would seem a modest and reasonable condition. However, the proposal was rejected because it was viewed as ‘unfair to institutions that serve minority students,” according to Inside Higher Education.
In a letter to the ABA, advocates argued against the policy as unfair to minority students and historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). They noted that “the potential number of schools that may fail to satisfy proposed Standard 316 in both 2016 and 2017 could include five of the six HBCUs,11 all three of the Puerto Rican schools, and 11 of the 21 California schools.”
The problem is that some of these schools have passage rates near or below 50 percent. The question is the fairness to those students who go into debt but cannot secure passage after two years.
The average cost of legal education law schools leaves $90,217 in debt, according to 2017 data.
We have previously discussed the efforts to deal with law schools with subpar passage rates. Some of those schools also have the highest levels of debt for students. The supporters of the ABA measure argued that the most direct way to combatting such low passage, high debt schools would be to impose a minimum passage rate as a condition for accreditation.
The ABA House of Delegates rejected the proposal lost, 88-334.