The Legal Beat
Charlotte Plans To Go Non-Profit While Still Paying Profits To InfiLaw Or Something
Posted on Wednesday March 22, 2017
With Charlotte School of Law kicking Dean Jay Conison to the curb after multiple calls from both faculty and alumni for his resignation, the new sheriff in charge at the beleaguered law school has announced a new plan for the institution, and it involves going non-profit. But still paying InfiLaw, its current for-profit parent, going forward. In this topsy-turvy world, somehow this all makes sense.
For the uninitiated, Charlotte is one of a number of law schools owned by the for-profit InfiLaw System and recently found itself stripped of its access to Department of Education backed loans based on findings that, basically, the school was a tire fire that failed to produce a reasonable proportion of graduates capable of passing the bar while simultaneously bleeding those students of big bucks in tuition. Faculty got fired en masse, students fled in droves, the alumni rose up in revolt. And Charlotte responded with defiance.
The DOE offered a compromise and Charlotte told them to go to hell. The students struggled to survive as faculty set up a food bank and the few students who remained were bullied for voicing their concerns. After an interminable wait, the school agreed to a teach-out plan that, theoretically, would restore federal money and then end with the winding up of all operations.
But apparently Charlotte’s not going away. Now they expect to partner with “a university in the northeast” and become a non-profit school, stretching the concepts of both geography and business organization. It’s not the first curious partnering for an InfiLaw school, with Arizona Summit recently joining with Bethune-Cookman. It’s unclear which “northeastern university” without a law school wants to add Charlotte, but I’ll go out on a limb and guess it’s not Princeton.
But the other curious wrinkle is the announcement that InfiLaw would still make money under this deal, even if the school becomes “non-profit”:
MT: How much of a difference would this change make? Is it a smokescreen?
LW: It’s hard to say at this point. It’s not clear how that agreement between the non-profit board and InfiLaw would work, nor how much the school would pay InfiLaw. But the plan also calls for faculty to play a bigger role in making academic decisions, starting with admissions standards.
So as far as we can tell, InfiLaw is just giving up its right to dictate academic standards, which is certainly a step in the right direction. Scott Broyles, Charlotte’s new dean, says as much in possibly the most diplomatic statement throwing your old boss under a bus and then throwing it in reverse ever:
Kind of the hydraulic pressures that were out there moving us in the bad direction for the last few years as far as the quality of students, we’ve effectively removed all that.
“Hydraulic pressures… moving us in the bad direction.” Nice. Broyles also told local station WFAE that faculty can now veto administrative decisions that lower academic standards, something that InfiLaw never allowed.
But this non-profit turn is also a little surprising since the hardline resistance to the DOE from former Dean Conison and President Chidi Ogene seemed mostly about appealing to the Trump University instincts of the new administration and moving on as a for-profit school, something Broyles even admits:
The complaints that were out there, that were addressed by the ABA and then in part adopted by the DOE people, those have been resolved for practical purposes. They really don’t have any reason to criticize the school going forward. And, secondly, it’s a new administration.
Despite the academic reprieve, apparently going non-profit is still a better deal. Why buy the cow of DOE disdain when InfiLaw can get the milk of tuition dollars for free? And, hey, Miskatonic University is looking for a law school willing to commit to its academic vision.
It’s not clear whether or not the school can get back on track, but Charlotte’s long, winding road just took another significant bend.
Earlier: Charlotte Can’t Pay Its Bills In Amazing Show Of Solidarity With Students
Charlotte Law School Excels At Making Enemies Everywhere
The Most Reprehensible Thing Charlotte Law Has Done — And That’s Saying Something
Charlotte Alumni Demand Resignations Of Law School Leadership
Charlotte Administration Pens Lame Response To Alumni Demands
Charlotte Law Needs A Food Bank For Students
Charlotte Agrees To Teach-Out Plan… But Does It Meet DOE Requirements?
Charlotte Law School Pulls Rug Out From Students
Joe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.