Inside the Lawsuit Against GW for Fraud in Online Master’s Program
Concurrent Session 2
On April 7, 2016, a group of former students sued George Washington University alleging fraud in the promotion and delivery of its online master’s degree in Security and Safety Leadership. This presentation will lay out the specifics of the case and examine what is at stake for online education.
In a lawsuit that asserts repeated instances of disconnects between what was promised and what was delivered, four former students filed a class action lawsuit against George Washington University (GW). The students claim that GW violated the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act and engaged in both fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation resulting in unjust enrichment to GW at the students’ expense. At the heart of the lawsuit, the students’ claims include that the program was advertised as being identical to the on-campus program though specifically designed for online delivery with instructors who are specialists in online teaching. According to the lawsuit, none of this was true. Further, the students claim the program was advertised as an accredited program receiving accolades from its alumni. Again, the lawsuit asserts none of this was true. Yet other allegations in the lawsuit focus on the assertion that while the on-campus and online versions of the program purport to be essentially identical, the online program is more costly than its on-campus counterpart; that in many instances faculty members failed to respond to students for weeks at a time; and some faculty members demonstrated a lack of familiarity with the subject matter. At this stage, the lawsuit is just that – a lawsuit with many as of yet unproven allegations. Nevertheless, the questions raised are important to understand as the integrity of online education as a medium lies in its cross-hairs.
This presentation will examine the central allegations of the lawsuit as well as its implications for online education.