The University of Southern California and education company 2U have been sued for allegedly misrepresenting the influential U.S. News & World Report college rankings to attract students to online courses, according to the Wall Street Journal, in yet another clash over the use of the increasingly controversial rankings.
The lawsuit, filed by the National Student Legal Defense Network, reportedly claims the university and the company—which runs USC’s online graduate programs—misled students by suggesting the rankings for in-person education school classes applied to similar online classes, even though the courses had different selection standards.
The suit—filed in Los Angeles County Court—reportedly cited USC’s early admission it submitted inaccurate data to U.S. News & World Report as evidence it defrauded its students.
USC withdrew its Rossier School of Education from the rankings earlier this year, after it tied for 11th in the most recent U.S. News & World Report ranking of graduate education programs, claiming it had “a history of inaccuracies in the survey data” going back five years.
A USC spokesperson told Forbes the university has “not yet received the complaint,” while 2U did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The U.S. News & World Report rankings have long been considered the industry standard to determine the prestige of higher education programs, but they’ve also been embroiled in scandal over allegations that schools manipulate the rankings, which rely heavily on test scores. The situation appeared to reach a tipping point earlier this year, when a Columbia mathematics professor published a study that found the university used “outdated and/or incorrect methodologies” to boost its ranking. Columbia later acknowledged it sent misleading data to U.S. News & World Report, leading the publication to drop Columbia from No. 2 in its national university rankings to No. 18. Another domino fell last month, when Harvard and Yale announced in the course of the same day they were withdrawing their law schools from the rankings, claiming the rankings give too much weight to test scores and punish programs for accepting students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Law schools at universities like Stanford, Georgetown and Michigan also went on to withdraw from the rankings.
It’s possible U.S. News & World Report will continue ranking schools that withdrew in its next edition, since many of the data points it relies on are publicly available.
University of Southern California Sued Over Education-School Rankings Claims (Wall Street Journal)