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Grad Students Let Concordia-Chicago Have it

CHICAGO (CN) - Concordia University Chicago charged graduate students more than $20,000 a head for accredited degrees, then failed to tell them it was not renewing its accreditation, 11 students claim in court.

Carlotta Jefferson and 10 other graduate students sued Concordia University Chicago in Cook County Court.

Concordia University, previously known as Concordia College, is a Lutheran liberal arts university in suburban River Forest.

The plaintiffs are enrolled in Concordia's School Counseling degree program, seeking to "serve as competent elementary, middle school, and high school counselors in both the public and parochial school settings," according to the complaint.

"This is a case about a blatant disregard of a relied-upon promise, the totally unfair treatment of a student population, and a voluntary decision to violate Illinois law," the complaint states.

"The graduate students of Concordia's School Counseling program who enrolled primarily in 2009 and 2010 made their decision to attend the university mainly based on an important promise by the university. That important promise was that the students' prospective Master's degrees would bear the shiny gloss of the nation's top counseling accreditation organization - the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). But although those students were led to believe throughout their matriculation that they would now be only a few months away from obtaining that coveted prize - after many hours of study and incurring higher than average tuition payments - they only recently learned that their Master's degrees will lack that valuable luster.

"Starting in May 2013, as a result of a voluntary decision made by Concordia, the

University's School Counseling Master's degree will no longer be accredited by CACREP, despite the promise Concordia made to the plaintiffs, upon enrolling, that meeting the academic and financial requirements would result in such an accredited degree. Adding insult to injury, although Concordia was aware of the precarious status of the School Counseling program's CACREP accreditation for some time, Concordia concealed that information from their student consumers, to their detriment."

CACREP accreditation "provides recognition that the content and quality of the program has been evaluated and meets standards met by the progression," according to the complaint.

Students without an accredited degree must take three additional courses after graduation if they want to take the licensing exam to become Licensed Professional Counselors, the plaintiffs say.

"It was not until one of the plaintiffs brought the dire status of the CACREP accreditation to the attention of the rest of the affected School Counseling students that the university began to acknowledge that the continued CACREP accreditation was even an issue," the complaint states.

"Concordia's failure, for at least a year, to inform the students that CACREP accreditation for the School Counseling Master's Program was in peril severely limited the plaintiffs' practical options to transfer to another university having a CACREP-accredited School Counseling program. This was grossly unfair to the plaintiffs and other School Counseling students and resulted in harm to them. ...

"Without the badge of CACREP accreditation, the plaintiffs' School Counseling Master's degree will be substantially less valuable to them in their pursuits of employment in School Counseling and other related professions, as well as educational opportunities."

They seek reimbursement of more than $20,000 in tuition per student, and punitive damages for breach of contract and deceptive business practices.

They are represented by Manotti Jenkins.

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