UNT Dallas gets ABA accreditation after raising LSAT scores

  • Members of the UNT Dallas College of Law Inaugural Class

The University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law received provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association on June 3, less than a year after it received a recommendation against accreditation.

The approval comes at an opportune moment for the law school’s inaugural class.  The 74 graduates who participated in the first Juris Doctor hooding ceremony on May 20, will now be considered graduates of an ABA-accredited law school when their degrees are conferred later this month. Most importantly, those graduates will be eligible to sit for the July 2017 Texas Bar Exam. 

“Our goal has always been to equip graduates with practice-ready competencies and the practical knowledge to pass the Texas Bar Exam,” said Royal Furgeson, founding Dean of UNT Dallas College of Law.  “We now have a clear path to demonstrate that the innovative curriculum and the resources we’ve established will support exactly that kind of success.” 

The provisional accreditation is a big victory for the state school, but comes with some compromises. In August, the accreditation committee denied approval due to concerns with the school’s low admission standards and uncertain financial future.

UNT Dallas had deemphasized LSAT scores in the admissions process in an effort to attract a more diverse student body. But to get accreditation, it had raise its LSAT profile.

The law school elevated the 25th percentile LSAT score from 143 to 147 by requiring a supermajority of its admissions committee to approve admission for any students who scored less than 142 on the LSAT.

The UNT Dallas Board of Regents also stepped in to support the law school, bolstering its financial reserves from $3 million to $6 million, Furgeson said.

“The ABA process has strengthened our law school and made us a better law school,” Furgeson said. “The first rejection was challenging to work through, but it highlighted our weaknesses, and we made adjustments to make us better.”

As the only public law school located in downtown Dallas, a city experiencing population growth of nearly 400 people per day, UNT Dallas College of Law hopes to serve a growing legal education market. Though there are two other law schools nearby — Texas A&M University School of Law in Ft. Worth and Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas, UNT Dallas College of Law is the only law school with a part-time night program.

Studies demonstrating the increasing demand for legal services in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and the need for a part-time night JD program, were factored into the ABA’s decision.

In addition, UNT Dallas College of Law is the least expensive law school in Texas, and one of the ten most affordable ABA-accredited schools in the nation. Tuition is only $15,133.

Furgeson said more than 80 people have paid deposits for the Fall 2017 semester. With the news of provisional accreditation, he is optimistic that close to 100 students will matriculate this year.

UNT Dallas College of Law, which was founded in 2013 and admitted its first class in 2014, will remain on provisional status for at least three years. During this time, the ABA will monitor the law school’s performance. After two years, the law school will be eligible to apply for full ABA accreditation.