According to a feature story in The Atlantic last week, for-profit law schools across the country are getting rich, while their students are saddled with massive debt. The story, by Atlantic reporter Paul Campos, takes a hard look at the practices of for-profit law schools like Florida Coastal, one of three law schools run by InfiLaw, a corporate entity formed by a Chicago private equity firm.

Campos writes that for-profit law schools get the best of both worlds: loads of money from students enrolling in their courses, and none of the risk of default, which is borne by taxpayers who fund the federal loans that pay the students’ tuition.

Campos draws a parallel between law students at for-profit law schools and over-leveraged home buyers who fell victim to the subprime mortgage debacle. According to Campos, more than 90 percent of the students at InfiLaw schools carried debt, with a median amount of approximately $204,000. As Campos puts it, “a single year’s graduating class from these three schools was likely carrying about a quarter of a billion dollars of high-interest, non-dischargeable, taxpayer-backed debt.”

Coupled with the fact that as many as half of these students face the risk of not passing the bar, and that they face dismal job prospects even if they do pass, Campos concludes that for-profit law schools are misleading their students and profiting from their woe.

In this long and thoughtful piece, Campos also deals with the regulation of for-profit law schools, and the ABA’s role in policing them.

A worthy read.