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These are watershed times for the ABA, the monolithic institution that knows no particular jurisdiction yet wields tremendous power. Today, it is facing serious questions about whether or not it can be charged with the responsibility of accrediting America's law schools.
So far, it could all be a lot of talk. But as far as we can tell, this is perhaps the biggest threat to the ABA's widely recognized authority to stamp schools with its seal of approval. Is the institution's sterling image finally tarnishing?
There were a number of vexing issues discussed during the June 24th DOE's federal committee meeting which eventually led to a recommendation to suspend the ABA's accrediting power for a year. According to a release of the meeting transcript, the DOE's quality arm, NACIQI, noted a litany of troubling findings that have dogged the ABA and law school reality for years: skyrocketing tuitions, enrollment of students despite an expected inability to pass the bar, misleading job statistics, and more.
Ironically, the transcript is posted by the ABA Journal.
Paul LeBlanc, a member of the NACIQI, described the ABA as being "out of touch with the profession," as well as struggling students. Referring to NACIQI's recommendation to suspend the ABA's power to accredit new schools he said, "I wish we had something other than the nuclear option."
Not all committee members were on board with the recommendation. Ralph Wolff, a committee member and consultant specializing in quality assurance, differed from the majority. In his view, the profession is indeed going through an upheaval, but that given steps taken by the ABA in recent years, he found no basis legally or even substantively "to deny the recognition" of the ABA.
Others expressed dismay despite the recommendation because despite its "nuclear option" flavor, no guarantees could positively ensure that needed changes in policy would actually take place.
To lay persons and indeed many lawyers and students, accreditation is a form of service and product guarantee that assures a minimum standard of quality. But in many cases, from a school's point of view, accreditation is the key that opens the gates of federal funding to students. Students, all else equal, are likely to consider federal assistance when determining which school they will attend.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.