ED settles with 5 law schools over financial aid violation


flags of Department of Education and USA

(NewsNation) — The U.S. Department of Education has announced settlement agreements with five law schools after an investigation by Federal Student Aid (FSA) found that the schools “improperly disbursed” federal financial aid to students enrolled in unaccredited Master of Laws programs.

The five schools that settled Albany Law School, Atlanta’s John Marshall School of Law, Brooklyn Law School, New England Law–Boston, and New York Law School.

Nearly $2.9 million in ineligible disbursements of Title IV funds were made to 92 students across the five schools between July 2017 and June 2022. 

“Today’s actions demonstrate our commitment to protect the integrity of the federal student aid programs,” said FSA Chief Operating Officer Richard Cordray. “Through our ongoing work, we will continue to protect both students and taxpayers.”

According to the Department of Education, institutions must be accredited or, in the case of public or non-profit institutions, pre-accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency to participate in Title IV programs. Each school is responsible for ensuring Title IV funds are only disbursed to students enrolled in eligible programs within the scope of the Department’s recognition of the school’s institutional accrediting agency.

Accreditation is a critical part of the federal student aid program’s regulatory framework, and accrediting agencies serve as reliable authorities regarding the quality of education or training offered by the institutions or programs they accredit.

However, unlike most law schools in the U.S., the schools included in the settlements are not part of a broader university system that offers other non-legal education programs and has institutional accreditation.

Under the settlement, the school will:

  • Reimburse the expected loss to the Department from the improperly disbursed funds;
  • Stop disbursing federal student aid funds to students in ineligible programs; and
  • Agree not to seek reimbursement or to recoup the amounts paid as a settlement from any students or former students.

Also under the settlements, the three schools that disbursed Title IV funds within the last five years must pay a fine.

The agreements do not constitute an admission of wrongdoing or liability by the schools.

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