Just as the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar accredits law schools, they too must complete an accreditation process.
Every five years, the ABA Council must renew its accreditation with the United States Department of Education. Through this process, the Department of Education heavily relies on the work of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) to review all submitted accreditation materials. The NACIQI also is responsible for holding regular hearings of the agencies seeking accreditation or a renewal every few years.
This year, the Council was up for a renewal. As a part of the formal process, the ABA submitted all necessary materials and had their scheduled hearing this June. However, this time around, NACIQI was very critical of the agency’s performance as an accreditor.
According to the hearing transcript released this month, NACIQI was not pleased with the ABA council’s attention toward a number of pressing issues surrounding law school debt, employment outcomes, and bar passage rates when accrediting law schools. For example, the advisory committee questioned the fact that for over the last five years no law schools have had an accreditation withdrawn. Also noting the ABA has continued approving new accreditations in spite of hikes in law school tuition and the decrease in job placement for many law graduates.
(Interestingly enough, amidst writing this, the ABA recommended that a law school be denied accreditation due to low LSAT scores.)
Following the hearing, the NACIQI actually considered denying the ABA council’s approval. However, the advisory committee opted for a less harsh punishment. The reasoning? Denial of accreditation would result in the loss of all federal loans given to current and future law students.
Instead, the NACIQI, recommended that the Department of Education, suspend the ABA for one year. This in turn would prohibit them from accrediting any new law schools.
At this time, the Department of Education has yet to act on this recommendation. The suspension is pending until the Secretary of Education rules on the matter. As more news is released, we’ll keep you in the know.