Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

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Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Jonathan Whatley » Fri Jun 22, 2012 4:49 pm

There's been a refresh to the list of DETC Applicant Schools.

The standout is Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, established 1911 and ABA approved since 1970. Southwestern is of course kind of famous among us higher education geeks as home of, as one of its options for first professional training in law, the SCALE program, 2 calendar years and focused on skills for legal practice, offered since 1974.

As a freestanding law school, Southwestern is not just programmatically but also institutionally accredited by the ABA, and eligible for federal financial aid for at least its main offering, the J.D., on this basis.

But while the ABA reviews LL.M. and other degree programs offered by its accredited law schools to ensure they don't unduly draw resources from from J.D. programs, they don't actually accredit these programs. Southwestern offers several LL.M. tracks on-campus and one, in Entertainment and Media Law, on-campus or online.

While undoubtedly legitimate and respectable and while they have some... accreditation-related standing from being issued from a fine ABA law school, Southwestern's LL.M.s specifically aren't technically accredited by anyone.

The main rationale for DETC accreditation would seem to be to hold national accreditation for the online LL.M.

This is an interesting development. There is precedent for a school drawing its standing from specialized accreditation for professional entry degrees that are its core offerings, plus DETC institutional accreditation including that and some other stuff, from two allied health schools — University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, and California College for Health Sciences/Independence University before they left for the ACCSC.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby nosborne48 » Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:14 pm

Indeed, a very interesting development.

I wonder whether the decision to seek DETC accreditation is based on student aid considerations?
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby nosborne48 » Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:41 pm

I also wonder why the school doesn't just apply with WASC. There are several non-ABA resident law schools in the Golden State with regional accreditation; the only special requirement is that the law school be accredited by the California State Board of Bar Examiners. (That's why Taft Law went with DETC.)
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby nosborne48 » Tue Jun 26, 2012 3:29 pm

Further interesting thought...when (not if) DETC grants its accreditation, SW Law's LL.M. degrees will carry the exact same imprimatur as does my LL.M. from Taft. Accreditation is beginning to blur together after all.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Tark » Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:02 pm

I also wonder why the school doesn't just apply with WASC. There are several non-ABA resident law schools in the Golden State with regional accreditation; the only special requirement is that the law school be accredited by the California State Board of Bar Examiners.

Presumably because DETC accreditation can be obtained more quickly, more cheaply, and more easily than WASC accreditation, while providing the exact same eligibility for Federal assistance.

The only plus to WASC accreditation is that it is more prestigious than DETC accreditation, but this is a minimal advantage for a standalone law school that already has ABA approval. ABA's seal of approval is really the only one that counts in legal academia.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Roald » Tue Jun 26, 2012 7:22 pm

Considering that the ABA doesn't accredit LL.M programs at all, what is the advantage to obtaining DETC? Presumably students at other ABA approved law schools who are pursuing an LL.M can still obtain federal financial aid, absent any specific programmatic acceditation?
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Rich Douglas » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:38 pm

I don't get it. DETC is an institutional accreditor. Thus, it would be accrediting a residential law school that also happens to offer a separate, online Master of Laws?

DETC accredited some foreign universities that offered DL, and that was dumb. How is accrediting a residential law school any different?
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Tark » Tue Jun 26, 2012 8:46 pm

Presumably students at other ABA approved law schools who are pursuing an LL.M can still obtain federal financial aid, absent any specific programmatic acceditation?

They presumably can, if their ABA-approved law school is part of a larger university that has regional accreditation. This, of course, is the case for the vast majority of ABA law schools. And in this case, the LL.M. is clearly a regionally accredited degree, regardless of its status with respect to ABA. And regionally accredited degrees qualify for federal aid.

But what if your ABA-approved law school is a "standalone" institution, not part of a larger university, and not regionally accredited? In that case, the accreditation status of the LL.M. seems unclear, at least to me. But DETC accreditation would make it clear.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Tark » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:13 pm

Looks like Southwestern has been thinking about DETC for a while. One of their Deans apparently attended the DETC Annual Conference in April 2011, based on the Registration List.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Tark » Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:14 pm

I don't get it. DETC is an institutional accreditor. Thus, it would be accrediting a residential law school that also happens to offer a separate, online Master of Laws?

Don't know. Possibly Southwestern plans to set up a separate division or school for its online programs, then have that part of the institution accredited by DETC.

This situation exists today with Concord Law School. Concord is a DETC-accredited DL school, but it is also part of Kaplan University, which is RA and includes many B&M campuses. Only the Concord part of Kaplan is DETC-accredited.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby SteveFoerster » Wed Jun 27, 2012 7:48 am

Tark wrote:Concord is a DETC-accredited DL school, but it is also part of Kaplan University, which is RA and includes many B&M campuses. Only the Concord part of Kaplan is DETC-accredited.

Is it still? For some reason I thought they let it lapse after they came under Kaplan's umbrella.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Tark » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:55 pm

Concord Law School of Kaplan University is currently listed as an accredited institution in the online DETC directory.
Concord also continues to advertise its DETC accreditation.

The DETC directory states that Concord's "accreditation renewal" is scheduled for January 2015.
It will be interesting to see if they renew, or let their DETC accreditation lapse at that time.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby nosborne48 » Wed Jun 27, 2012 9:03 pm

It's not completely unknown to be both R/A and DETC. The AMU/APU people were doubly blessed last time I checked. I admit, though, that I don't see any particular advantage to it. If each group were unwilling to accept the other's credits, say, then it might be worth doing but AFAIK no DETC school is likely to refuse to accept R/A credits though the reverse is certainly another story.

I SUPPOSE that the schools might see some advertising advantage to being able to use the HUGE, GOLD DETC Seal on their web sites?

Or, Oh! Here's a baseless speculation: The ABA is notoriously opposed to J.D. programs containing any meaningful D/L component. (I could go further and say that the ABA is apparently opposed to J.D. programs containing meaningful components of ANY OTHER sort as well but that would be another post). Could be that the ABA said point-blank: "If you are going to offer a purely distance learning Master's degree, we won't allow you to call it "accredited" solely on the basis of our approval of your J.D. program."?

Most resident LL.M. programs consist of allowing the student to take at least some upper-division law courses with J.D. students so the ABA is effectively vouching for the quality of the program. Not so with D/L courses.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby Tark » Thu Jun 28, 2012 12:37 am

It's not completely unknown to be both R/A and DETC. The AMU/APU people were doubly blessed last time I checked.

Not any more. The American Public University System resigned their DETC accreditation effective April 30, 2012.

I admit, though, that I don't see any particular advantage to it.

Apparently APUS didn't either, since they are now RA only.

Note that APUS is a different situation from Southwestern. AMU/APU are online-only institutions, so they were certainly eligible for institutional accreditation from DETC. Southwestern Law School, on the other hand, is primarily a traditional B&M school, though it does have some online offerings. But DETC is only authorized to provide institutional accreditation to distance-learning schools. It follows that Southwestern -- taken as a whole -- is not eligible for DETC accreditation.

It seems possible, then, that Southwestern is not going to apply for DETC accreditation as a whole. They may be planning to move their online programs into a nominally distinct school or division for accreditation purposes. This would be like the DETC-accredited Concord Law School division of the otherwise-not-DETC-accredited Kaplan University.
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Re: Southwestern Law School, ABA Non-RA, Seeks DETC

Postby SteveFoerster » Thu Jun 28, 2012 5:44 am

nosborne48 wrote:Could be that the ABA said point-blank: "If you are going to offer a purely distance learning Master's degree, we won't allow you to call it "accredited" solely on the basis of our approval of your J.D. program."?

Although that raises the question of who would notice. Outside of degree forums, I've never heard of anyone even understanding this esoteric issue much less being worried about it.
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