By Tyler Roberts
To better reflect a new vision for comprehensively improving legal education, Access Group, Inc. has changed its name to AccessLex Institute.
Since its founding in 1983, Access Group served as a federal student loan provider with a stated mission of expanding access to legal education.
But in 2010, the rug was pulled out from underneath Access Group, and its business model was jeopardized. A legislative action mandated that all federal student loans be issued by the Department of Education through its Federal Direct Lending Program.
The future of Access Group was grim. Without the ability to grant access to federal student aid, the company was forced to reassess its role in legal education. In the following years, the company allocated its existing resources to focus on research, advocacy, and on collecting data that could be used to shape the future of legal education.
“The core infrastructure of AccessLex already existed,” said Christopher Chapman, president and CEO of AccessLex Institute. “We arrived at the point last week when it was time to change our name to reflect these capabilities.”
A quick look at AccessLex’s website indicates that it has not been idle. Online, law school students and administrators can peruse through the institute’s publications, grant-funded research and compare the performance of law schools using the Analytix by AccessLex tool. In the past three years alone, the company has awarded more than $4 million in grants.
Additionally, AccessLex built out three core activities aimed at comprehensively improving law school: increasing access for racial minorities and historically underrepresented groups, making law school more affordable, and enhancing the value of a legal education.
“Currently not many decisions are driven by data,” Chapman said. “Through our core activities, we are developing the infrastructure to discuss issues in legal education.”
Other new initiatives of the institute seek to foster the transition between aspiring lawyer and successful professional.
For example, the AccessLex Center for Legal Education Excellence supports legislation and policies that would benefit law school students. Among the issues, the Center advocates for treating education loans on equal terms as other unsecured debt in bankruptcy proceedings, preserving the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Concurrently, the AccessLex Center for Education and Financial Capability offers on-campus and online loan repayment and financial education programming to help law students and graduates manage their finances.
Access Group will continue to serve as the loan servicing, portfolio management and default aversion division of AccessLex Institute.