Updated January 31, 2023
20 December 2022. Tycko & Zavareei LLP and co-counsel National Student Legal Defense Network filed a class action lawsuit against the University of Southern California and its for-profit online program partner 2U, Inc., alleging that they used doctored US News and World Report rankings to deceptively recruit students into online graduate degree programs at USC’s Rossier School of Education. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, arises out of the school’s April 2022 release of a report reflecting an investigation undertaken by Jones Day, which concluded that USC had been submitting incomplete data to US News to inflate its standing in the publication’s annual Best Graduate Schools of Education ranking since 2009. The complaint alleges that USC paid 2U a disproportionate amount of tuition to recruit and enroll students in Rossier’s online graduate programs, and that together, they used those fraudulent rankings to recruit large numbers of students and charge them top dollar. The lawsuit seeks to recover damages on behalf of the named plaintiffs and other similarly situated students, all of whom were misled and paid a premium on tuition as a result of USC and 2U’s deceptive practices.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a joint letter from Senator Elizabeth Warren and other Democratic members of the House and Senate education committees, released on December 2, calling on the Department of Education to take a closer look at the relationships between universities and online program managers (“OPMs”) such as 2U. The letter expressed concern that the tuition-sharing arrangements violates federal law prohibiting incentive compensation for recruitment and noting many reports of aggressive recruiting practices by the OPMs that are borne out of those arrangements.
TZ represents undergraduate and graduate students in other class actions. Our firm successfully obtained a settlement for Barry University students who sought tuition refunds and credits due to COVID-19 educational refunds and continues to advocate for students in similar situations at other institutions. TZ is also challenging Grand Canyon University’s deceptive practices regarding their graduate professional degree programs which allegedly do not hold up to state licensing requirements. Additionally, the firm filed a lawsuit against Heartland/ECSI over its practice of charging federal Perkins loan borrowers allegedly unlawful fees when making payments on their student loans online or over the phone.
The case is Iola Favell, Sue Zarnowski, and Mariah Cummings v. University of Southern California and 2U, Inc., Case No.: 22STCV39350 in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Los Angeles.
If you have been affected by the above practices, or believe you have been the victim of other unfair practices by your school or student lender, please use the form below to get in touch.
Post image: Bobak Ha’Eri, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons