Online education

USC Alumni File Lawsuit Over Online Social Work Program Alleging False Advertisement

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Dive briefs:

  • Graduate of the University of Southern California’s Online Master’s Degree in Social Work filed a class action lawsuit On Thursday, it claimed the institution misrepresented the program as being equivalent to the on-campus version.
  • They claim the university presented the online program as “exactly the same” as the face-to-face program, but the online version was entirely outsourced to 2U, a for-profit educational technology company. Both programs charged the same tuition and fees, which exceeded $100,000.
  • The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, accuses USC of misrepresentation, false advertising, and other unlawful recruitment practices. According to one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs are seeking a refund of the amount they say USC overcharged them and to stop the university from repeating its questionable conduct.

Dive Insight:

Since USC partnered with 2U, enrollment in the university’s Master of Social Work program has grown from 300 students to more than 3,000. This lawsuit has not yet been certified as a class action lawsuit. Online growth drove the increase almost entirely.

However, the program has come under intense scrutiny since 2021 study by The Wall Street Journal The graduates’ debt-to-income ratio was found to be among the worst in the country.

According to the complaint, the instructors, content, curriculum, advice, and clinical placement of the online master’s degree were all inferior to the in-person program and were administered by 2U, not the University of Southern California.

The lawsuit also alleges that USC, through 2U employees, targeted students and veterans of color with aggressive and predatory tactics to persuade them to enroll in online programs. Recruiters used her email to communicate with prospective students, even though she worked at her 2U, not the university, the lawsuit says.

“The fact that the MSW program was used as a money maker and used to deceive people like me and the communities where I come from is not good. There is,” the lawsuit and the Mexican-American college student said in a statement.

A project on predatory student loans, which specializes in claims relating to former students of for-profit colleges, represents plaintiffs. Its president and director, Eileen Conner, described the university’s online social work program as “an expensive diploma factory.”

“USC used its brand to deliberately defraud unsuspecting students and make ‘money’ at their expense through inferior online MSW programs,” Connor said in a statement.

USC said Thursday it had not yet received the complaint and would consider the details at that time.

This is not the only class action lawsuit USC is currently facing.

In December, another group of former students sued agency and 2Uwhich claims to have artificially inflated rankings of USC’s online education programs to increase enrollment.

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