ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida A&M University's law school, which was recreated 12 years ago after it was shuttered in the 1960s, has been told it is meeting national standards and will maintain its accreditation.
The decision announced this week lifts a cloud that had been lingering over the Orlando-based school for more than a year. The American Bar Association in early 2013 raised questions about whether FAMU was doing enough to prepare students for the exam needed to get a law license.
The informal warning came at the same time that FAMU was dealing with the fallout from the hazing scandal that surrounded the November 2011 death of drum major Robert Champion.
But the ABA accreditation committee this week told the school it had answered questions and shown enough proof that it is addressing the concerns.
"Obviously we are very pleased we have answered all the questions," said FAMU College of Law Dean Leroy Pernell.
The news also comes at a good time since it appears that enrollment at the school is on the rise. Enrollment dropped during the last academic year to about 520 students but Pernell said applications for the fall have jumped up at least 20 percent.
Part of the questions about the FAMU law school centered on the academic quality of students it was accepting. School officials have argued that in order to fulfill its mission of helping recruit minorities into the legal profession, it must look at other factors besides scores on entry tests.
FAMU presented information to the ABA accreditation panel that spelled out the steps it has taken to help its students. The school also pointed out that its rate of students passing bar exams has increased the last five years.
FAMU had a law school at its main Tallahassee campus up until the 1960s, but the historically black university was forced to shutter it after state legislators shifted funding to a new law school at nearby Florida State University. Decades later, a coalition of black and Hispanic legislators led the charge to restore FAMU's law school and to create one at Florida International University in Miami.