Western State is running out of options


The troubled Western State College of Law Argosy appears to be down to two options.

It could close.

Or it could be purchased by another higher-ed institution and get a new start. 

The Orange County law school has submitted two teach-out plans to the American Bar Association (ABA) that lay out both scenarios. They’ve been approved.

They are called Plan A and Plan B. There is no Plan C, apparently.

The school has been teetering since its parent university, Argosy University, was placed in federal receivership earlier this year. There were serious concerns that the school would close in mid-semester — derailing graduating third-year students in their tracks — but federal funding was not cut-off.

But graduating students, there were 134, were so worried they set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for it, and raised nearly $5,500.

The school held commencement on May 18. It was likely a bittersweet affair, as those graduating left a school they may never see again.

Under Plan A, the school would land a buyer that would allow it to continue its “existence as an ongoing enterprise.” If the acquisition is unsuccessful, the school would continue its teach-out program until December 2022.

Plan B is a bit more depressing. Basically, it’s goodbye. It says: “The Law School will announce that it is ceasing to operate its J.D. program and the Council will continue the Law School’s accreditation through July 1, 2022, for the limited purpose of granting degrees to current Law School students who complete their degree requirements as transient students at other ABA-approved law schools.”

The school had 285 first- and second-year students, according to the most recent ABA 509 report.

So the school’s future depends on another school coming to the rescue. The website, Above the Law, reported that a nonprofit, Westcliff University in Orange County, has signed a letter of intent to purchase the school.

But the school has not reported many updates. It’s most recent news release dates back to February. Both its Twitter and Facebook accounts have not been updated since late March.

If it closes, Western State University would be the sixth ABA-approved school to shut down or plan to do so. It would join Valparaiso University and Indiana Tech Law School, both in Indiana; Arizona Summit and Charlotte School of Law, both for-profit schools like Western State; and Whittier Law School. Ironically, some students transferred to Western University after Whittier’s closure.

Unlike the other law schools, most of which were in trouble with the ABA for poor outcomes, Western University’s ultimate bar passage rate for the Class of 2016 was 86.75 percent.