It works like this: schools invite some of their rejected applicants to enroll in a six-week summer program, which involves taking a couple of upper level law school courses -- one on fourth amendment issues, and the other on negotiable instruments. At the conclusion of the courses, the students take standard issue-spotting in-class exams. If they achieve at least a 2.5 GPA in both courses, they are offered admission to the school's fall entering class.
The original justification for these programs appears to have been that some people with bad LSAT scores and/or GPAs will do better in law school (in this context "better" means "not flunking out") than their numbers predict, and this is a good way to find out who they are. These programs, however, should be sending up red flags to anyone looking into them. For one thing, most law schools who have AAMPLE programs are remarkably reticent about the fact. I went to the web sites of the 22 schools that LSAC listed as having such programs as of April 2010, and in most cases it was impossible to find any information about them, or indeed that they even existed (prospective law students can't apply for the program without first being invited to do so by the school after being rejected in the regular application process).
Those schools that do provide information about their AAMPLE programs use a canned FAQ format (compare this with this) which goes to great lengths to insulate the school from any potential complaints, legal or otherwise, and which is also very careful not to contain any information about how much this is going to cost the hopeful applicant.
How much this is going to cost turns out to be remarkably variable. At some schools -- for example St. John's and Loyola New Orleans -- the program itself apparently costs nothing, beyond the cost of textbooks (which in themselves run several hundred dollars). Others, for example New York Law School and Nova Southeastern, the tuition is or at least was -- more on that in a moment -- $3500, meaning that someone coming to the school to take the program could easily spend $5000 in six weeks in a last-ditch attempt to gain admittance to these schools.
Who do schools invite to participate? Three years ago, Nova invited nearly half their rejected applicants to take part. 183 took them up on the offer, and 85 passed the courses. Now this was obviously a terrific little profit center for school, given that the program generated $640,500 in revenues. (Some schools -- I'm unclear whether Nova is one -- credit the tuition paid by successful participants toward their first-year tuition.)
Most of the AAMPLE participants at Nova had LSAT scores below the 23rd percentle, and a significant number were below the 13th percentile (two participants had LSAT scores between the second and the sixth percentile of the test, which represents a raw score barely better than answering the questions on the test randomly).
Now consider that, in comparison to some other schools that employ AAMPLE, Nova is relatively selective institution. Per LSAC's latest data (which is two years out of date) it was admitting "only" 40% of applicants through the regular admissions process. By contrast, three schools that actually promote the existence of their AAMPLE programs -- Charlotte, Florida Coastal, and Phoenix -- have been admitting between 65% and 73% of their applicants, per the same slightly outdated LSAC numbers. Thomas Cooley, which also employs AAMPLE although you can't discover this via the school's web site, admitted 83% of its 2010 applicants. It seems probable that these schools invite the large majority of the the relatively few applicants they reject to take part in their AAMPLE programs.
My very initial research into these programs (I trust that the attorneys suing these institutions will look into these matters in more detail) has uncovered some interesting recent developments in regard to them. Specifically, Florida Coastal, which was charging $3200 tuition for its AAMPLE program, has quite suddenly dropped the price of participating by 84.375%, to $500. Charlotte is now charging the same price. I was unable to discover what Phoenix is or was charging, but given that all three of these schools are owned by the same for-profit company it would be a surprise if both Charlotte and Phoenix haven't dropped their prices in concert with their corporate brethren.
Also, consider the trend at Phoenix in regard to how many participants in the program are being admitted:
- 2005 11%
- 2006 22%
- 2007 20%
- 2008 33%
- 2009 42%
- 2010 51%
- 2011 Spring 80%
Once again, we see how in legal academia something that sounds relatively innocuous in theory -- standardized tests have serious drawbacks, some people who score badly on the LSAT can still be competent lawyers, it's important to maintain "access" etc. etc. -- has been perverted into just another way of extracting money, coming and going, from naive, desperate people.