Bar-passage rates at the InfiLaw schools are now in a free fall. (The following percentages are for first-time takers of the July exam in the schools’ home states.) Florida Coastal’s bar-passage rate has fallen from 76 percent to 59 percent, Charlotte’s has fallen from 78 percent to 47 percent, and Arizona Summit’s has gone from 75 percent to an astonishing 30.6 percent.
This collapse has taken place despite the fact that, according to allegations in a lawsuit filed by a former Arizona Summit administrator, all three schools have been offering money to graduates who the schools identified as being at especially high risk for failure, to get them to hold off on taking the bar exam. Indeed, in July Arizona Summit’s dean confirmed that she had called various graduates the night before the exam, imploring them to consider the “opportunity” to withdraw from the test, in exchange for a $10,000 living stipend, that would be paid to them if they enrolled in enhanced bar-preparation courses provided by the school.
The InfiLaw schools’ bar-passage numbers are almost certain to get even worse. Although the schools reduced their admissions standards drastically in 2012, they have since cut them further, to the point where they are now admitting huge numbers of students with credentials including lower LSAT scores and GPAs that would have barred them from getting into these schools three years ago. The admissions process at the InfiLaw schools is now close to a fully open-enrollment system, that inevitably matriculates many people who have little chance of ever passing a bar exam.
InfiLaw is not only exploiting these students, but also taxpayers who will foot the bill when these students cannot repay the hundreds of millions of dollars they borrow. Because the schools are ABA-accredited (via a lax process epitomizing the dangers of regulatory capture) the federal government will loan the full cost of attendance to anyone they admit—even though it is likely that, given their entrance credentials, a very large percentage of InfiLaw’s current students will never pass a bar exam, let alone actually secure jobs as lawyers. (The full cost of attendance at these schools is now over $200,000.)
It would be bad enough if the collapse of law-school admissions standards, and the subsequent collapse of bar-passage rates, were limited to a handful of especially egregious bad actors in the world of for-profit higher education. But as I argued last year, the same basic path followed by Infilaw is now being taken by dozens of other law schools, almost all of which are nonprofits. The only difference between these schools and the InfiLaw group is that most of them waited a year or two longer before reducing their admissions standards in response to plummeting application numbers, and that therefore it will take another year or two before this is reflected in the national bar-exam results.