On May 4, 2023, Altshuler Berzon LLP, together with The Project on Predatory Student Lending (PPSL), filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court alleging that the University of Southern California (USC) deceives students into enrolling in its online Master of Social Work (MSW) program. The lawsuit alleges that, among other things, USC misrepresents to students that its online MSW program is exactly the same as USC’s long-standing and well-respected on-campus MSW program (apart from format), and it charges students the same high price (until recently, more than $100,000) for the online MSW program and the on-campus program. But they are not at all the same: The complaint alleges that online MSW students have different and inferior faculty, course offerings and content, field placements, academic advising, and career services. It also alleges that USC outsources much of the online program to a for-profit education company, 2U, Inc., and that USC uses aggressive and predatory tactics, including racial targeting, to enroll students in the inferior online MSW program.
The lawsuit alleges violations of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, Unfair Competition Law, and the common law prohibition of unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs were students in the online MSW program and, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, seek damages, restitution, and injunctive relief to prevent USC from continuing to deceive and target students, and to make former and current students whole.