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The American Bar Association this week announced that it was putting Arizona Summit Law School on probation due to egregiously low bar exam passage rates. This makes ASLS only the country's second law school on ABA probation ― the first of which, Charlotte School of Law, subsequently was shut off from the federal student loan spigot by the U.S. Department of Education.

The connection? These are two of three for-profit law schools owned and operated by Infilaw, which in turn is owned by private equity firms Sterling Partners and ABRY Partners, alongside a bit of debt and equity co-invest from publicly-traded Ares Capital Corp.

How bad is it? Last year, ASLS students taking the bar exam for the first time passed at just a 24.6% rate. The national average was 64.2%, while local rival Arizona State University came in at 78.8%. In Charlotte, things got so bad that the school secretly paid "at risk" graduates to delay taking the bar exam until after taking a third-party prep course. And before you think this is some cut-rate program, one year of attendance at ASLS runs over $67,000.

What went wrong? Who knows? Seriously, I mean that. A spokeswoman for Sterling Partners said that the Chicago-based firm does "not comment on matters related to InfiLaw." When I pointed out that Sterling has actually commented plenty in the past, extolling the virtues of for-profit education, she said she'd get back to me. Never happened. I also called the Sterling managing director currently responsible for Infilaw, but his EA said he'd need "permission" to speak with me. Permission from whom? No comment, and apparently it wasn't forthcoming since he never called back. Also silent was minority equity-holder ABRY Partners, which actually wiped all references to Infilaw from its website last summer. As for Infilaw itself or Ares Capital.... well, you guessed it.

One would hope one of these folks would feel some obligation to explain why they are charging so much for such ineffective services, particularly when the likely results include taxpayers being on the hook for loans that are either: (1) Unlikely to be repaid, since the students don't become lawyers; or (2) Personal bankruptcies in order to repay the loans since, again, the students didn't become lawyers.

Oh, and this is hardly the first time that Abry has run into for-profit education trouble. The Boston-based investment firm also owned a piece of Marinello Schools of Beauty, which closed last spring after also losing federal student aid access for around half of its campuses.

What now: The big question going forward will be if the Department of Education ― now under new management ― gives ASLS the same treatment that it gave Charlotte. It seems like a fairly cut-and-dry case, but new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a well-known proponent of for-profit education, to the point that she even hired an advisor whose last job was as a lawyer for a for-profit education company under federal investigation. It's also worth noting that DeVos has personal exposure to some Ares-related CLOs, but there is no indication that they are invested in InfiLaw.

Go deeper

School enrollment fell by almost 3 million from 2019 to 2020

Kindergarten student Natalia Bayoumi holds the hand of her father Amir Bayoumi as he walks to the front door of Normont Elementary School in Harbor City, CA. Photo: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The number of individuals enrolled in the U.S. education system dropped by 2.9 million from 2019 to 2020, according to new data released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.

Why it matters: This marks the lowest level of school enrollment for those under 35 years-old in over 20 years, per the Census Bureau.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Facebook paying up to $14M to settle employment discrimination claims

Photo: T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Facebook has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle allegations that it discriminated against U.S. workers by reserving positions for temporary visa holders, the Justice Department announced on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The settlement represents the largest civil penalty and monetary award that the Civil Rights Division has recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act's anti-discrimination provision.

Ina Fried, author of Login
3 hours ago - Technology

Google's Pixel 6 bets on better cameras, homegrown chip

Image: Google

Google's latest Pixel phones, announced Tuesday, pack a lot more than just a new processor, although the Tensor chip is a key to many of the new features.

Between the lines: Google has been in the smartphone business for years, but with the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, it is finally striking out in a unique direction.