Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Student Loan Cycle of Madness Continues

It was bound to happen.  Just as the lax attitude of the Law School Cartel steadily marched towards mutually-assured destruction due to increasing cost and terrible prospects, so has the student loan system begun to turn full-circle and prey upon those least able to pay:

The government has collected about $1.1 billion from Social Security recipients of all ages to go toward unpaid student loans since 2001, including $171 million last year, the Government Accountability Office said Tuesday. Most affected recipients in fiscal year 2015—114,000—were age 50 or older and receiving disability benefits, with the typical borrower losing about $140 a month. About 38,000 were above age 64.

 The report highlights the sharp growth in baby boomers entering retirement with student debt, most of it borrowed years ago to cover their own educations but some used to pay for their children’s schooling. Overall, about seven million Americans age 50 and older owed about $205 billion in federal student debt last year. About 1 in 3 were in default, raising the likelihood that garnishments will increase as more boomers retire.

 “I believe this is the tip of the iceberg of what may be to come if we don’t work harder on this problem,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, the top Democrat on the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Wait, I thought it was only lazy, stupid Gen-Xers and Millennials who didn't want to work hard, were entitled, were deadbeats, wanted a trophy just for showing up, etc.  Maybe these Boomers should show some initiative, go get a damn job, and pay their bills.
Except I can't really bring myself to say this with the venom I might like.  While I and many. many others have had to deal with this sort of dismissive verbal abuse for decades, and it has taken some time for the truth to bear fruit, two wrongs do not make a right.  Maybe the actual truth, a truth that the scamblogs have diligently proclaimed for some time now, is (1) that the last ten years (and more) have been hard on most everyone, and (2) that the cost of higher education has been a cost that has rapidly and disproportionately risen compared to the value actually received.
Further, I believe once you start garnishing social security checks, the ridiculousness and moral depravity of non-dischargable student loans are apparent for all to see.  These people are not doctors who declared bankruptcy after medical school and now have enjoyed million-dollar salaries for decades, scott free - they are people who worked, tried to make a living, tried to support others, have varying degrees of disability, and yet still have the yoke of student debt affecting their retirement.  
A failed small-business owner can declare bankruptcy, learn from what worked and what didn't, and try again.  A student-loan debtor apparently carries the albatross around her neck for life.  Meanwhile, in the irony of all ironies, the ABA has had to sue to enforce PSLF for its own employees.  IBR and PAYE are increasingly in the crosshairs due to angry legislators who feel mislead.  Now, get out there and "network."
Friends - do not go to law school.  Costs are only increasing, prospects only get worse, and the student-loan "safety-net" touted by ScamDeans and LawProfs is actually no safety-net at all to graduates.    Find something actually in demand and hopefully less financially onerous regarding the requisite education.   Perhaps we will all have garnished checks in "retirement", but at least you can act to minimize the damage, now.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Federal government kicks Charlotte off the gravy train

As of the end of the month, the Charlotte School of Law will be ineligible to receive funds from federally guaranteed student loans:

Last year those funds brought almost $50 million into Harlotte's coffers. Without that money, which represents the bulk of its revenue, Harlotte cannot continue to operate. It may well never open its doors again.

Unsurprisingly, the news of this minor victory for the anti-scam movement has ruffled feathers over at Harlotte. Students are circulating petitions and seeking legal advice in contemplation of litigation. Professors are calling upon InfiLaw, the parent scam-company, to keep the school alive, presumably by injecting tens of millions of dollars per year:

Particularly aggrieved are those students who expected to graduate after one more semester. I agree that they should be given that chance to finish their degrees. Late December is a terrible time to find out that the skule may not open again after the break.

But should they want to finish? If the skule closes down on them, they can wash their hands of their student loans. That's a hell of an opportunity, one that many similarly placed students and recent graduates would grab in a trice. I suspect, however, that at least 90% of the 3Ls at Harlotte won't share that view: they'll still want the degree, despite their very poor prospects and the huge amount of non-dischargeable debt that most of them will have run up.

Might two camps emerge at Harlotte? The professors and most of the students will probably demand that Harlotte stay open for one more semester at least. But students who find out about the rare opportunity to dump their student loans may lobby for Harlotte never to open again. And the administrators may even advertise that opportunity in order to drum up support for a prompt closure.

The option of transferring raises an additional complication. Traditionally one could transfer no later than the end of the first year. Lately, however, some law schools have taken transfer students with two years of credit. Might some enterprising scamsters, especially those in or near North Carolina, go after some Harlotte students needing to transfer for only one more semester? Students availing themselves of that option would not be allowed to discharge their student loans, so transferring would probably still be a bad idea.

And what is InfiLaw going to do? Presumably it will offer to absorb Harlotte's students at one of the other two InfiLaw toilets. But would anyone, even a Harlotte student, be stupid enough to take that offer after being stung by InfiLaw?

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Is the ABA violating its own protocol for auditing law school employment survey results?

In my last two posts, I criticized ABA managing directors Barry Currier and William Adams for asserting, on the basis of highly deferential preliminary audits of the annual employment survey results from 10 randomly selected law schools, that law schools were accurately reporting their placement results. See here and here

These posts did not receive the customary number of page views or comments. The reason, I strongly suspect, is that I am one of the few persons, other than sub-150 LSAT-scoring 21-year olds, who was sufficiently naive to believe that the ABA audit of would amount to something more than a public relations ploy. Law schools scam up their placement numbers without consequences. The sun also rises. What else is new?

Nonetheless, I am going to flog this hobbyhorse onwards for the length of at least one more boring post.

Recall that five out of the 10 law schools selected for a random annual audit did not comply with the ABA's preliminary stage requirement that no more than 5% of their employment files be deficient (i.e. incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading). Accordingly, Adams informed the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education by memo that a three-member ABA committee would decide, as a matter of discretion, which of the five schools would be subject to Level 2 Review (A Level 2 Review involves independent verification of some of the reported data, unlike a first-stage audit, which basically just involves a review of employment files for completeness).  

In his memo, Adams stated that "If more than 5% of a school’s files are found to be deficient, a Level 2 Review. . .  may be ordered. . . . A committee of three persons, including me, has been appointed by the Data Policy Collections Committee to determine which of the schools with discrepancies should get elevated levels of review. . . After this further review of the schools with a compliance rate below 95%, the review committee will determine which of these schools may warrant a Level 2 Review." (emphasis added)

What is the problem here? The problem is that the ABA's "Protocol for Reviewing Law Graduate Employment Data, and Statement of Procedures for Collecting, Maintaining, and Reporting Law Graduate Employment Data" (hereafter: "Protocol") states that "If more than five percent (5%) of the Files are found to be deficient, the ABA will then proceed to a Level 2 Review." (emphasis added).  

Why then is there a need for Adams and the other two members of the review committee to deliberate and determine which of the five law school violators may be subjected to Level 2 review? Under the Protocol, they all should.  You see how the Protocol's "will then proceed" has turned into the memo's far more equivocal "may be ordered" and "which. . . may warrant"?  I think that every lawyer appreciates the often night and day difference between a mandatory procedure and a discretionary one, and Currier and Adams surely do. 

As a further confidence-builder, the members of this great triumvirate have been appointed by a larger ABA committee known as the Data Policy & Collections Committee (DPCC). The DPCC consists of two law school deans, two associate law school deans, four law school professors, one director of law school admissions (at bottom-tier New England Law), and one dean emeritus. So the three member review committee was specially selected by a group of persons who have a vested interest in the public perception that law schools are modeling the values of professionalism and are accurately representing that a JD usually leads to a good job.

Consider the following significant defects in the ABA Protocol and in the way the audit has been managed by Currier and Adams: (1) Only 10  out of the 205 accredited law schools, were selected for a random audit, a disturbingly small pool that Currier has no intention of expanding. (2) The first stage of an audit consists "solely" of a review of the employment files themselves and does not involve independent verification or confirmation of reported data. (3) The first stage of an audit accords the school a presumption that its employment files are complete, accurate and not misleading, absent credible evidence to the contrary. (4) Under the Protocol, up to 5% of a school’s employment files may be found to be incomplete, inaccurate or misleading without triggering additional review. (5) According to Currier, the names of the five schools that did not comply with designated minimum standards will not be publicly revealed.

Now consider the following praiseworthy aspects of the ABA Protocol, those that may genuinely protect consumers by deterring or exposing scammed-up employment survey results: (1) According to the Protocol, if more than 5% of a school’s files are found to be incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading, that school will be subjected to independent verification of some of its reported data, aka Level 2 review. (2) Sorry, this list only runs to one item. And yet it is this verification provision that has been quietly diluted. 

It is distressing that the ABA is, seemingly, unwilling to enforce its own standards. Are law school employment survey results anything more than fantasy fiction in highly granular numeric form?  Who knows?  The law school scam abides. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Should ABA honchos Barry Currier and William Adams have lauded the "good news" that the first annual ABA audit of law school employment data has not revealed evident misconduct?

According to an old joke, the meaning of the ethnic word “chutzpah is best illustrated by a man who murders his parents and then pleads for mercy on grounds that he is an orphan.  However, I always felt that it would that it would be fairly easy to create more outrageous examples of brazen hypocrisy.  I mean, the man in the joke does implicitly acknowledge his crime and offers truthful, if unpersuasive, mitigation. 

What if, instead, the man in the joke bragged about the excellent parental care he had provided? How about if he asserted that his moldering parents were alive and healthy on the basis of a quack medical protocol that presumes life and health and does not require that the patient be examined for respiration, pulse, or movement? How about if he insisted that any allegation of wrongdoing be adjudicated confidentially by a clubby panel of parricides?

I want to flag the comments below, from ABA Section of Legal Education managing directors Barry Currier and William Adams, as exemplifying law school scam chutzpah. These comments pertain to the preliminary results of the first annual ABA audit of law school employment survey data. The ABA found that five out of the ten schools selected for a random audit failed to comply with the standard set forth in the ABA protocol that at least 95% of a school's employment files be “complete, accurate, and not misleading.”  Moreover, two schools created documents only after being informed that they would be audited or asked to submit files.  

Bad news, one would think, or at least troubling news, given law schools’ dismal recent history of circulating inflated and highly deceptive job placement numbers so as to bolster student recruitment efforts. But, no, Currier and Adams both hail these results as “good news”:

  • “The issues identified tend to be small things like which boxes to check on forms or where to store information. . .If the underlying information turns out to have been accurate, which is what we are finding, that’s good news. . . Then, getting them to do the paperwork in exactly the right way is our major concern.” (Barry A. Currier, ABA Managing Director of Accreditation and Legal Education, quoted in Inside Higher Ed, Nov 1, 2016)
  • “The good news is that the overwhelming majority of schools subjected to the data review have both accurately reported employment results and provided credible documentary support of what they have reported. Of the schools identified for follow-up discussions, most have issues relating to documentation questions. It is not yet evident that any of these schools has misreported data. . . The two schools that appear to have created their documentation after the fact raise more serious problems, but they may also be able to explain that what we perceive is not accurate.” (Bill Adams, Deputy Managing Director, Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, memo to Council, Aug. 5, 2016)
  • There are no plans for releasing the names of law schools flagged for issues. There are also no plans for expanding the audit pool for the random school review, which found issues at half of the schools scrutinized. Currier had no projected date for finishing the audits. “We feel like we’re actually reasonably far ahead of the curve of what other accrediting agencies are doing.” (Barry A. Currier, quoted and summarized at Inside Higher Ed, Nov 1, 2016)

Why do these comments constitute chutzpah rather then mere institutional public relations? The answer lies in the details of the ABA Protocol for Reviewing Law Graduate Employment Data and, perhaps, in the backgrounds of the quoted ABA worthies.

Consider that stage 1 of a random employment audit consists “solely” of a review of all Graduate Employment Files for completeness. A Stage 2 or Stage 3 audit, which involve independent verification or confirmation of some of the reported data only takes place at the discretion of a three-member ABA committee that includes Adams, and a Stage 1 audit is all that has taken place so far. Moreover, an employment file is “presumed” to be “complete, accurate, and not misleading absent credible evidence to the contrary.”

Therefore, the “good news” that the ABA did not identify any “evident” problem with the underlying accuracy of data is due to the fact that so far, and in accordance with the protocol, no effort has been made to independently verify or confirm the presumed-to-be-true underlying data. You know, you tend not to identify instances of possible misconduct when you do not look for them and presume that they do not exist. (This is putting aside the fact that the ABA’s weak review did stumble upon prima facie evidence that two schools fabricated documentation, which Currier did not deem sufficiently significant to acknowledge as grounds for concern in his good news pronouncement).  

In fact, given the absence of verification and the presumption of accuracy, I wonder how blatant the scamming must be for an ABA audit at first stage to even theoretically uncover misleading data. Maybe ABA alarm bells would go off if some fourth tier pit reported that 4.9% of its recent grads were employed as Associate Justices on the US Supreme Court. But wait, I do not think that that alone would suffice given that the protocol specifies that a school is not out of compliance unless “more than five percent (5%) of the Files” are found to be “incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading.”

It may be unkind to mention, but Currier and Adams came to their current high-level ABA managerial jobs after holding deanships or professorships at some truly awful law schools. Currier was Dean of the privately-owned and non-ABA accredited Concord Law School (2004-2010) and before that of fourth-tier Samford (1996-2000). Oh, and in between his deanships, Currier held an ABA post as "Deputy Consultant on Legal Education" (2000-2004). Adams was Dean of privately-owned fourth-tier Western State (2009-2014), and was a long-time Professor at fourth-tier Nova Southeastern (1989-2009). Currier and Adams’s respective backgrounds raise the question of whether they harbor a certain unconscious bias in favor of marginal law schools.

Most shockingly of all, an OTLSS audit has discovered that both Currier and Adams have the words “Regulatory Captured” and “Revolving Door Access” tattooed in money-green lettering across their buttocks.

Okay, that I simply invented, but do not call it incorrect for that reason. While I have no data to authenticate the existence of the tattoos, I do have a self-created protocol that presumes that my unverified and self-serving assertions are accurate and not misleading.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

U Mass Dartmouth accredited; students are worth $53 per hour

Don't accuse the ABA of letting ink encrust its rubber stamp of approval. Just months after accrediting Indiana Tech (only to see this internationally esteemed center of law & hip-hop shut its doors forever), the ABA has done the same for the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. See this puff piece that U Mass Dartmouth—call it "You Ass" for short—published yesterday:

U Mass Dartmouth rose like a phoenix (the University of Phoenix?) from the ashes of an entity called the Southern New England School of Law, which dumped its ass(ets) onto the state in 2010. The state, in exchange, felt compelled to set up its ninth—yes, ninth—law school.

Now, the establishment of law schools at Indiana Tech and possibly soon in southernmost Texas has been justified in part by the great distance that the fine denizens of Fort Wayne and McAllen would have to travel in order to attend the nearest law school. Weak as it indubitably is for Indiana and Texas, that argument seems downright risible for Massachusetts, which can be traversed from Pittsfield to Provincetown in only four hours—even more quickly if a Masshole is behind the wheel. So that argument wasn't even proffered in support of U Mass Dartmouth. Instead, the upstart academy was justified as the state's only public law school. Eight private ones, evidently, just do not meet the needs of the Bay State. Why stop at Harvard when you can have U Mass Dartmouth?

Like every other toilet school, U Mass Dartmouth claims a special mission: "to diversify the legal profession and expand access to justice for citizens". Ho-hum. Where have I heard that song before?

The puff piece proclaims that "UMass Law had the most diverse entering class in New England in 2015 (35.5%) and the rate is 33% this year". Rate of what, exactly? Apparently the reference is to racial diversity, as if no other form of diversity existed. Thirty-three percent is the proportion of students not identified as white. It includes those in the category "Race and Ethnicity Unknown" (4.9% of the entering class in 2015), since of course the very failure or refusal to answer an intrusive question about race proves that the person is not white, just as failure to answer a survey about employment after graduation proves that the person is employed—no doubt in a corner office at a big law firm in Manhattan.

Does this "diversity" reflect a conscious effort by the admissions office, or is it an accidental consequence of the racialized nature of the pool of applicants? U Mass is far from selective, admitting as it does two applicants out of three. (Just imagine the quality of the people that it rejects.) And although it doesn't descend quite to the depths of Cooley ("UMass Law’s 25th percentile LSAT is already higher than 40 out of the 205 ABA law schools in the country"—what an achievement!), U Mass bears all the hallmarks of a toilet, especially its dreadful median LSAT score (148). Like so many other toilets, U Mass preys upon people who shouldn't be in law school, all the while congratulating itself for its "diversity".

What's this about "access to justice"? Just four days before announcing its accreditation, U Mass published another puff piece, this time about its students' volunteer work:

"Since the UMass School of Law was established at UMass Dartmouth in 2010 to serve the public interest, its students have delivered more than 87,000 hours of service to the community. This service has been valued at more than $4.5 million."

Pardon me? How can the "service" of students at a then-unaccredited toilet be worth that much? Because the bulk of the work, falling in the legal field (though what the students actually did is not clear), is assessed "[a]t $53 per hour (the amount paid to District Court-appointed lawyers in Massachusetts)".

Yes, the admini$trators of U Mass Dartmouth have the unmitigated gall to equate the work of their dipshit students, most of whom scored well below the fiftieth percentile on the LSAT, to that of court-appointed lawyers. Why, those godlike students should be licensed forthwith! Why encumber them with such bootless chores as finishing law school, passing the bar exam (only half of the candidates from their alma mater passed the exam in Massachusetts this past July), gaining admission to the bar, and maintaining a license when already they are performing at precisely the level of court-appointed counsel?

Paradoxically, the juridical colossi of U Mass Dartmouth don't ordinarily bring in $53 per hour after graduation, by which time they should certainly have attained barristerial nirvana. See these data from our friends at Law School Transparency:

Ten months after graduation, 20.7% percent of the previous year's graduates were "Non-Employed"; only 34.5% were "known to be employed in long-term, full-time legal jobs". How much do they make? As usual, we don't have full data: only two-fifths of the employed graduates reported salaries. But the median salary reported by that group was $45k per year, and the salary at the 75th percentile was $67k. What happened to these graduates, whose volunteer work just a few years earlier was worth $53 per hour ($106k per year at a full-time job)? They must have lost their Midas touch when they left the nurturing embrace of U Mass Dartmouth.

It turns out too that the students had a motivation for their "service": U Mass Dartmouth "make[s] pro bono and experiential learning service a graduation requirement". Never mind: their time is still worth every bit as much as a lawyer's, even though employers are too blind to see that.