Charleston School of Law to enroll students for the fall

FileThe Charleston School of Law building on Meeting Street. The law school said Friday it will accept new students for the 2015-16 academic year.

The Charleston School of Law announced Friday that the school will accept new students in the fall for the 2015-16 academic year.

Students were taking final exams May 5 when George Kosko and Robert Carr, the remaining owners of the troubled law school, said they might not enroll a new class of students next year.

The school also laid off seven faculty Friday, one of a number of cost-cutting moves that is allowing the school to continue to enroll students, a news release said.

The seven faculty members join 24 staff members and four other faculty members bought out or laid off since May 1, 2014, according to the release.

“It’s been hard to lose these members of our staff and faculty, but it’s been a necessary business move to ensure that the size of the school is appropriate for the number of students we have,” said School of Law spokesman Andy Brack.

The release said the school also was working with its landlords to consolidate facilities.

School Student Bar Association president Matt Kelly had a mixed reaction to Friday’s news.

“We’re, of course, happy to hear that they’re bringing in new students,” he said. “However, it’s unacceptable that the board continues to perpetuate this false narrative about the school’s financial status.”

Kelly said the larger problem is the continued pursuit of a sale to the for-profit InfiLaw System. He said the school already had let go 24 staff and faculty members, and losing seven more is unacceptable.

“The faculty is what makes the Charleston School of Law a great school, and terminating the faculty is not the solution to the problem,” he said.

Kosko and Carr opened the school with three other South Carolina lawyers and judges: Ed Westbrook, Alex Sanders and Ralph McCullough. Sanders and McCullough retired in July 2013, just before the remaining owners announced that a sale to the for-profit InfiLaw System was in the works.

The announcement created turmoil at the downtown school because many students, alumni, faculty and members of the state’s legal community were opposed to it. Opponents have said they think the company’s three law schools have lower standards than the Charleston school. Becoming an InfiLaw school will decrease the value of a Charleston School of Law degree, they have said.

But Kosko, Carr and representatives from InfiLaw repeatedly have said the company represented the only option for the survival of the school.

Westbrook, one of the school’s founders and owners, had proposed creating a nonprofit organization to take over the school. But Westbrook in March announced that he was stepping down from the board and severing his ties with the school. It remains unclear whether Westbrook has yet to cut his financial ties to the school.

Law school owners and InfiLaw representatives have said the school is in a financial crisis due to declining enrollment and the owners taking $25 million in profit out of the school between 2010 and 2013.

InfiLaw spokeswoman Kathy Heldman has said the company now has no plans to refile an application for a license to operate in South Carolina with the state’s Commission on Higher Education.

The company previously had applied for a license, and commission staffers had recommended it be approved. But InfiLaw in June pulled its application less than 24 hours before the commission was to vote on it.

Matt Sartwell, Robert Behre and Diane Knich contributed to this report.