Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Students Sue USC For Reporting False Data To U.S. News To Goose Its Ranking

USC Rossier (2023)Following up on my previous posts:

Wall Street Journal, University of Southern California Sued Over Education-School Rankings Claims:

A legal advocacy group for students is suing the University of Southern California and 2U, alleging that the school and the company that runs its online graduate programs in education defrauded students by using misleading U.S. News & World Report rankings to promote the courses.

According to the suit, filed in Los Angeles County Court, USC’s Rossier School of Education used rankings that covered their in-person programs to highlight the strength of the online offerings, even though they had different selection criteria and student populations. The suit also says those rankings, even if they had been relevant to the online programs, were based on inaccurate information the school used to improperly boost the school’s score. ...

“USC intentionally falsified data to inflate their U.S. News ranking, and 2U used the false numbers to pad their profits,” said Eric Rothschild, litigation director of the National Student Legal Defense Network. ...

Rossier’s then-dean said in a 2016 email that if forced to include data regarding students in an online doctoral program, “we will drop like a rock in the rankings,” according to the Jones Day investigation.

Los Angeles Times, Lawsuit Against USC Education School Alleges Fraud in U.S. News &

The University of Southern California’s education school was sued Tuesday by former students who claim that officials violated state law by falsely advertising the graduate program’s high online degree ranking, which was based in part on fraudulent data submitted to U.S. News & World Report’s college rating list.

The class-action lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges that USC and 2U, a technology company hired by the university to recruit students and provide technical support for its online programs, “aggressively advertised” the Rossier School of Education’s “fraudulent” rankings to bolster enrollment in online offerings.

“People certainly paid a premium given how expensive the school is,” said Kristen Simplicio, an attorney representing the students. “That ranking was one of the reasons that school was able to charge as much as it did.” ...

The complaint included screenshots of advertisements on the Rossier School of Education website touting its U.S. News ranking and a school Twitter account that described its master’s program in teaching as “top-ranked.”

Attorneys for the students are asking the court to order USC and 2U to return tuition and other costs to the more than 1,000 students who have enrolled in the Rossier School’s online EdD, a doctorate program, and masters programs since the alleged fraud began and to give up any profits it made through the courses. ...

According to the lawsuit, USC shot up in the U.S. News rankings of education schools over the years because of the incomplete data, leaping from No. 38 in 2008 to No. 10 in 2018. ...

Iola Favell, one of the students suing the university, received a master’s degree in teaching from Rossier in May 2021. She said she was drawn to the school because of its high ranking. ...

Favell said she relied almost entirely on the U.S. News ranking in selecting USC’s program and would not have enrolled there if she knew the school’s ranking was based on flawed data.

“It was definitely not worth what I paid for it,” said Favell, who borrowed more than $100,000 in student loans to cover tuition and other costs. “I just wish I had known this information before I chose a program.”

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