JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The dean and a professor of law at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville abruptly resigned Tuesday afternoon.
The departure of Scott DeVito comes one day after he sent an email to Florida Coastal law students informing them that the school had just learned that the American Bar Association had denied the school’s application to convert to nonprofit status.
DeVito had been a professor at the school 11 years and served as dean for the past four years.
“After considerable thought and personal reflection, I have made the decision to resign from Florida Coastal School of Law,” according to his statement Tuesday. “I wish you all the very best and will greatly miss you.”
DeVito told First Coast News it was a coincidence that he left when the school was denied, saying he planned on leaving no matter the outcome.
The school opened as a for-profit college in 1996. It is owned by InfiLaw, a Naples-based company. The school has been struggling over the last few years especially when it lowered its standards and admitted students with weaker credentials.
in 2016 the U.S. Department of Education gave the school failing marks when it measured the graduates' debt-to-income ratios. It was told if it failed again, it could lose access to the federal student loan program effectively leaving a great many students without a way to pay the $36,000 in tuition fees.
In 2017 only one in four Coastal Law students passed the winter Bar examination on the first attempt. Four years earlier, nearly 80 percent passed the winter exam on the first attempt.
DeVito at the time vowed to change the course by lowering the number of students admitted and increasing standards.
This year the school announced it was seeking nonprofit status. If approved by the American Bar Association it would have been independent with its own governing board. The move was part of the school’s attempt to plan for growth and a stable future. For-profit institutions cannot apply for grants, and nonprofit status would have allowed the school to seek alumni and community donations for endowed professorships, symposium and law review.
“This was an extremely disappointing outcome given how hard so many of us worked on the application,” DeVito wrote to students Monday afternoon. Twenty-three hours later he informed the students that he was leaving.