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Almost half of Idaho law school go on leave

First Published      Last Updated Aug 22 2014 07:14 pm

Boise, Idaho • Nearly half of the third-year students at a southwestern Idaho law school are taking temporary leave after the university's request for accreditation was delayed, according to a school spokeswoman.

The Idaho Statesman reports in a Thursday story that 20 of the 45 third-year students at Concordia University School of Law in Boise won't take fall classes.

Dozens more are reportedly enrolling in the University of Idaho's Boise law program for this fall. At least 55 students have paid deposits to the accredited state program, doubling the university's expected enrollment.

Neither Concordia nor the association has said what is causing the accreditation delay. Instead, the American Bar Association council decided it would send a fact-finder to Boise to review information about the school that it didn't have before.

Under Idaho law, students who graduate from a non-accredited law school cannot take the state bar exam. The exam is a requirement to practice law.

Concordia officials say they have been seeking accreditation since 2013 after the school opened in 2012. Earlier this month, the Idaho Supreme Court rejected the school's request to allow its third-year students to take the bar exam if the ABA had not ruled on their accreditation bid.

The private school has been considered something of a rival to the University of Idaho's law school based in Moscow, which is about 300 miles north, because it appealed to students who wanted to stay in a more urban setting.

State university officials have their own designs to expand its public law school program in Boise, which is perceived to have better opportunities to work in the state's government and corporate epicenter.

The American Bar Association only allows students to transfer 30 credits from an unaccredited law school. That means students like Charles Johnson, 29, of Boise, must repeat his second-year of law school.

Johnson said he's not upset at Concordia; instead he criticized the association for taking too long. "The bar association doesn't care about the students," he said.

The delayed accreditation has also left students who chose to stay at Concordia unsettled.

"Obviously I am a little nervous about the whole situation, but not enough to take a semester off or leave," said Matthew Wolfe, 28, a second-year student who moved to Boise from New Jersey to attend Concordia. "I took nine credits this summer knowing that things were up in the air. I am still powering through."

Three years of law school at Concordia costs roughly $51,000. Meanwhile, the University of Idaho costs $16,480 for in-state students.