State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis says quality and affordability are the two main goals for South Carolina’s higher-education institutions, and the company poised to buy the Charleston School of Law doesn’t appear to strive to meet either.
At its Thursday meeting, the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, the state agency that approves operating licenses for for-profit institutions, will discuss the Charleston school’s pending sale to InfiLaw System, a company that owns three other law schools. The commission and the American Bar Association must approve the sale before it can become final.
The sale of the private law school is controversial among many in the state’s legal community who think InfiLaw schools are “diploma mills.”
Julie Carullo, the commission’s deputy director, said staffers met with some Charleston School of Law leaders last week. They also have obtained a copy of a management services agreement between the law school and InfiLaw, and a letter stating that current owners intend to sell the school. The law school now must submit a formal application on the sale to the commission, she said. “It’s not a quick process.”
Founders of the law school, which opened in 2004, announced July 25 that they had entered into a management services agreement with InfiLaw, which sometimes is the first step in a sale. They announced on Aug. 28 that a sale was in the works.
Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, at a meeting of a key legislative delegation committee last month, encouraged the commission to more thoroughly scrutinize the law school’s potential sale to InfiLaw.
He said Wednesday that he continues to be opposed to the sale, citing comments made by Bob Wells, executive director of the South Carolina Bar Association, at the legislative delegation meeting.
Wells said he had met with representatives from an InfiLaw school who told him they don’t strive to move up the rungs of the rankings ladder for law schools. They simply want graduates to pass the bar exam and be prepared to work as lawyers.
“InfiLaw’s history and goals, set out to the S.C. Bar Association, are not consistent with state goals for higher education,” said Stavrinakis, who is a lawyer. He also said that tuition at InfiLaw schools is even more expensive than tuition at Charleston School of Law, which currently is about $38,000 per year.
Stavrinakis said he intends to continue to monitor the approval process.
John Robinson, president of the law school’s Alumni Board, said his group, which also is opposed to a sale to InfiLaw, continues to monitor the process.
When law school founders announced that a sale was in the works, they also said they would consider viable offers from groups other than InfiLaw.
Robinson said the Alumni Board is looking for such groups, and will help interested parties with the application process. He doesn’t have any idea on the amount of the pending sale, which has not been disclosed.
After a meeting with students last week to answer questions about the sale, Robert Carr, one of the school’s founders, told The Post and Courier that an inquiry about the selling price was “not a legitimate question to ask,” because the parties are in private business.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.