For-profit law schools are likely to remain unchallenged under Trump.
After centuries of exclusion from the legal profession and the justice system, ethnoracial and socioeconomic minorities are now welcome—at a very hefty cost. This was a key lesson I learned from years studying a US for-profit law program. Whereas school proprietors counted on a feast of unconditional federal student loan dollars, students assumed the risk of famine brought by non-dischargeable debt and limited job prospects. Students of one law school even faced literal hunger as their loan checks were temporarily suspended due to their school’s repeatedly poor performance.
For-profit law schools, once unheard of under the strict accreditation monopoly of the American Bar Association (ABA), suddenly became viable after a deregulatory policy shift in the 1990s. Following the lead of large for-profit colleges like the University of Phoenix, financiers powered by fresh interest in private equity investment created new law schools and branded them with a mission to “serve the underserved,” in other words to cater to minority and working-class communities long excluded from the legal profession and access to justice. Amid renewed, marketized interest in corporate and professional “diversity,” these schools attained ABA accreditation.
Despite accusations of predatory behavior, they could argue that no one else was so actively diversifying the legal community. When more and more students—especially minority graduates—failed to obtain Bar admission or gainful employment upon completion, school principals argued they had enabled market “access” for more minority legal professionals than anyone before.
Whereas school proprietors counted on a feast of unconditional federal student loan dollars, students assumed the risk of famine brought by non-dischargeable debt and limited job prospects.