Eleven students at a Chicago-area university offering a master's degree in counseling have sued the school for consumer fraud.
They say Concordia University in River Forest, Ill., allowed its accreditation with the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs to lapse after promising them degrees with the council's imprimatur, the Chicago Tribune reported.
The university acknowledged in an email that it did so, the Chicago Sun-Times said.
Carlotta Jefferson, a public school teacher in Chicago, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit filed Wednesday in state court in Chicago. She and other students are seeking tuition refunds and damages for the time they invested, but she said the main goal of the lawsuit is to get Concordia to renew its accreditation.
"When we learned last fall that the accreditation was due to expire in October, students began asking about it. We were told not to worry, it would be renewed," Jefferson told the Sun-Times. "Then in class one day, a student discovered the CACREP wording gone from the website."
The students in the lawsuit are scheduled to graduate this year from the School of Counseling. Concordia says it tried to persuade the council to allow current students to have accredited degrees and has offered them tuition-free courses in another Concordia program that remains accredited.
"I have a 9-month-old child. I'm supposed to be finished in May. Prolonging the degree doesn't work for me," Jefferson said. "Nor does transferring into another program. If I'd wanted to be a clinical mental health counselor, I would have enrolled in that program, not this one."
Concordia Chicago is part of the Concordia University system, which is run by the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church and has branches around the country.