USC Students File Class Action Lawsuit Alleging Inflated College Rankings

Three former University of Southern California (USC) students have filed a class action lawsuit against the school and the education technology company 2U over alleged inflated rankings of the university’s programs in U.S. News & World Report.

Plaintiffs Iola Favell, Sue Zarnowski, and Mariah Cummings claim in their complaint that USC “manipulated and artificially inflated” the rankings for its Rossier School of Education (USC Rossier) — which costs “top dollar” — in order to recruit prospective students.

As a result, the plaintiffs argue they accumulated student debt in order to be a part of a USC program that they otherwise wouldn’t have chosen to take out loans for, if they had known its alleged correct ranking.

The complaint “centers on that rankings fraud, and in particular, the way in which USC — in concert with its partner and for-profit, publicly-traded corporation, Defendant 2U — aggressively advertised USC Rossier’s fraudulent rankings to grow enrollment in the school’s online programs.”

“In March 2022, USC made headlines for its decision to withdraw its Rossier School of Education (“USC Rossier”) from the U.S. News & World Report‘s (“US News”) ranking of graduate schools of education,” the complaint explains.

“The US News annual ranking of educational institutions is the single most referenced source of school prestige and academic standing that prospective students consult when selecting a school,” the complaint continued.

“The rankings play a critical role in prospective students’ academic decisions, making USC’s recent decision to withdraw from these rankings shocking,” the lawsuit added. “Even more shocking was the reason why: an internal investigation by USC’s counsel Jones Day revealed that USC had submitted erroneous data to inflate USC Rossier’s rankings for years.”

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