FAMU Law and Nursing Programs Threatened with Closure for Poor Student Performance

The FAMU College of Law dean and 2022 FAMU law graduates outside of the university's original College of Law building. (FAMU College of Law )

Fewer than half of Florida A&M University College of Law students passed the Florida Bar exam on the first attempt last year, prompting a Florida State University System governor to warn he is prepared to eliminate that program if the numbers do not improve.

The approved goal for the FAMU 2023 class of law students was 80% passing on the first attempt. The actual result for those students was 41%, a 12% decrease from the year before.

FAMU pharmacy, nursing, and physical therapy students underperformed, as well. Nursing fell 8% below the approved goal of a 90% pass rate; pharmacy fell 22% below the approved goal of 92%; and physical therapy was 13% below the approved goal of 92%.

Alan Levine, vice chair of the SUS Board of Governors, aired his complaints about the programs’ performance during the panel’s meeting on Thursday in Orlando.

“I’m prepared to vote to take these programs away if we can’t do it the right way,” Levine said. “This is a disservice to those students and to the taxpayers who are paying for this, and the result they are getting is they can’t pass their boards to go practice what they went to school for.”

The performance statistics came up during a Board of Governors review of state university accountability plans, which include post-graduation employment status, demographics of graduates, enrollment planning, and other data. Of the 12 state universities, two were highlighted for performing lower than the rest.

The Florida Atlantic University nursing program was the other program across all state universities that performed “in the red” in 2023, or more than 5% below the approved goals. The FAU Boca Raton campus’ nursing students performed 5% lower than the approved goal for first-attempt nursing exam passing rates and the Davie campus program performed 17% below the approved goal.

“We’ve talked about nursing at FAU for a while now, and we’re here talking again about this at FAMU,” Levine said. The FAMU law program has not scored within 20% of its approved goal in the last five years.

Improvement plans

Larry Robinson, president of FAMU, said the university submitted “fairly intensive or comprehensive improvement plans” for the four programs in 2023.

“What we see is increases in all of them, but we’re still not at the level that would change this from red to yellow or green,” Robinson said. Yellow reflects scores within 5% of a goal; green represents meeting or exceeding the goal.

Robinson said the university has collaborated on best practices for better outcomes on the bar exam with other universities. FAMU faculty learned how to better address at-risk students and adjust the curriculum to prepare them for the exam, he said.

“We have begun to review the curriculum to ensure that it correlates more closely with what students might experience or be questioned about on the bar examination itself,” Robinson said.

FAMU enrolls all at-risk students in bar exam prep courses and tracks graduates’ careers, according to Robinson.

“I think making the stronger correlation between the curriculum and the exams themselves and making the test prep a mandatory part of the student experience is going to make a significant difference,” he said.

The benchmark, or national average, for the bar exam first-attempt pass rate was 86% in 2023 — 7% higher than FAMU’s.

“I’m a huge fan of the work that’s been done at FAMU, you know that,” Levine said. “And I’ve been a huge advocate for giving everybody the opportunity to correct these things. But not hitting our threshold for pass rates is completely unacceptable — it’s table stakes; this is a must-do.”

Levine indicated he favors terminating the programs at the two schools.

“One of the questions I have is whether or not your admission standards are improper — are you admitting people into these programs that shouldn’t be in these programs?” Levine said.

“That’s part of the question here. Not everyone needs to be a lawyer, not everyone can go into nursing, they’re tough career paths. So, if you let somebody in for other reasons than merit or they don’t meet the standards of the students that have the propensity to pass their boards, then you’re not doing them a service.”



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