Western State College of Law on brink of closing

Yes, legal education has seen some topsy-turvy moments these past few years, but Western State College of Law at Argosy University just may have set a new bar for it.

The Irvine, Calif.-based school could close any minute.

Students haven’t gotten their loans. Some don’t have money for rent and food. Third-year students don’t know if they’ll able to graduate and take the bar.

Yes, it’s a mess. Dream Center Education Holdings, which owns the school, has been placed in receivership and is said to be $41 million in debt.

Dream Center had controlled more than 50 for-profit schools throughout the nation, including the Argosy University system, of which the law school is a part. The U.S. Department of Education stopped financial aid to Argosy schools because they were said to be taking money meant for students and using it to pay staff and vendors.   

The Education Department also nixed Argosy’s plan to become nonprofit institutions.

Western State College of Law, formerly a for-profit law school, announced it had become a nonprofit school in October 2017. That status, among many other things, now appears in question.

Students are panicking — which is putting it mildly. A GoFundMe drive was started for students. It says:

“Without any warning students’ lives have been turned upside down by Argosy’s sudden collapse and Western’s potential shutdown. Some of us have received eviction notices, some of us are moving out of our apartments mid-semester, some can’t buy food, and all of us are unreasonably being punished for something we did not do and were not warned about.”

The oldest law school in Orange County, Western State College of Law, was founded in 1966. Since 2000, it’s changed hands a few times. First, it was sold to Argosy Education Group, which later sold it to the Education Management Corporation, which operates for-profit post-secondary schools.

Two years ago, the Argosy system was purchased by the Dream Center Foundation, a Christian nonprofit organization.

Now, the court-appointed receiver is looking for a buyer for the law school, a deal that may not materialize. Regardless, Western State College Dean Allen Easley told students in an email that the administration is working on plans to keep the school open until the end of the semester.

The American Bar Association responded to student inquiries, noting that it has “limited” options in the matter. It could begin a review process that leads to stripping the school of accreditation or require it to file a “teach-out” plan, so existing students can finish their educations, it wrote. 

“Neither provides a solution to the disbursement of your loan funds nor to the law school’s ability to continue to operate,” the ABA said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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