Thursday, April 20, 2017

We Have a Scalp - Whittier Law's Last Stand

You know that neighborhood restaurant that has been around since your parents or even grandparents were kids? Everyone loves it - the food is pretty good; the staff is friendly, and it has that great nostalgic feel. Then one day, it's forced to close its doors. Usually little things have chipped away at it for a while: Newer, hipper restaurants have come onto the scene, older patrons move on or pass away, etc. Finally, their rent gets jacked up and they're forced to close. They have a nice sendoff and everyone is a little sad that an era has come to end.

Yeah, this is nothing like that. While Whittier Law has been in business for decades, no one should shed any tears about this "going out of business sale". It may be unfair to say the school has been a scam since its inception, but it certainly has been part of the greater law school swindle for the past couple of decades.

Check out the profile of those unfortunate enough to graduate from this school from the New York Times: "Last July, only 22 percent of the school’s graduates passed the California bar exam, according to state data. The employment rate for long-term jobs requiring a legal degree was 29.7...Students who graduated from Whittier last year had an average of $179,000 in pre-interest debt..."
There are reports that some stakeholders at Whittier Law are suing to try to keep the doors open. Might I suggest that they instead express gratitude that they aren't being arrested and charged with fraud for abusing the student loan system for years via misleading marketing materials and gouging their students?

For those who are unaware of the details, Whittier College decided it had enough of the antics down the street at its eponymously named law school. By "antics", I mean Whittier Law had become a financial liability. Prior to the scamblog and transparency movements, law schools were reliable cash cows for the larger universities and colleges. Now that Whittier Law has ceased to serve this purpose (and is likely costing big bucks for Whittier proper to subsidize it), it has been cast aside like a Whittier Law grad's resume at a respectable law firm - or for that matter any half decent Burger King.

I'd like to think that someone on the Whittier board of trustees looked beyond the dollars and cents and recognized that it was unethical for a school with such pitiful outcomes to be kept afloat. Nonetheless, the decision was probably all about the money. This is fine. It means that word is getting out that one shouldn't go to law school, and if one does, one shouldn't do so without a generous scholarship. The combination of declining enrollment and the need to offer deep discounts for those who do enroll apparently torched Whittier; other schools are likely also feeling the same burn.

In January 2015, I wrote:

This means, that unless the ABA abruptly jettisons all standards, the absolute garbage schools are going to start coming close to the end of the rope. They may be willing to tolerate students who don’t know the difference between long arm statutes and chewing on their own arms, but the state bar examiners won’t be so kind.
For many schools, this is the pathway toward a level of financial calamity that was once only reserved for their graduates. Nevertheless, the alternative – academic degradation – will instead send bar passage rates into the cellar (with the attendant possibility of loss of accreditation).

I wish I could claim to be prophetic, but this really was just common sense. (Sorry, I don't know what the stock market will be like in a month nor who will win the World Series.) For the abysmal schools (like the late Whittier Law), when the choice is between liberalizing your admissions policy to enroll barely literate knuckle-draggers or lowering tuition to $99.99/semester (after discount), it's axiomatic that you aren't going be long for this academic world.

As others have pointed out, what makes this so monumental is that this is the first fully ABA accredited institution to bite the dust. Cooley had to close a campus. I think some dinky unaccredited schools closed their doors. Indiana Tech barely took flight before its engine burst into flames. Charlotte Law's board is still shopping around its collective soul to see if there's some way to salvage that scholastic toilet.

The law school scam has been stubborn to roll over. Heck, it has been nearly a decade since the Great Recession wave of scam bloggers were active and this is the first real scalp we've taken.

I know referring to "scalping" isn't exactly politically correct, but I'm actually a bit "liberal" when it comes to Custer's Last Stand. General Custer was an arrogant officer, who couldn't fathom that he could be beaten but a bunch of Indians - sorry, Native Americans, and his hubris cost him his life.

I see a bit of a parallel to the present situation. I have never forgotten an early article about the scam when one dean dismissed us as just a disgruntled minority of graduates. After all, at the time, the law schools were printing money, and we were unemployed and underemployed losers typing away on our free blogging platforms.

Now, however, the tribe is bearing down on the beaten and bloody law school cartel. If the fall of Whittier Law has paved the way for other universities to be so bold, prepare yourselves for the forthcoming massacre, scammers.

In the meantime, play us off, Atlanta Braves fans:

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