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University of Akron students sue school over doctoral program’s loss of dual accreditation

October 4, 2018

University of Akron students sue school over doctoral program’s loss of dual accreditation

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Thirteen current and former University of Akron students have sued the college over the loss of accreditation of a unique doctoral program in marriage counseling and therapy.

Lawsuits filed Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court accuse the university of engaging in unfair consumer practices by launching an aggressive marketing campaign to highlight the program’s dual-accreditation status to coax students to enroll, only to lose its dual-accreditation in August 2017.

Those students -- some of whom left careers and moved out of state to enroll in the program -- took on financial debt in student loans, moving expanses, lost income from their careers and other, the suit says.

The students are seeking at least $25,000 in damages and asked a judge to allow them to make their case to a jury.

They also filed complaints with the Ohio Court of Claims, according to a news release from Peter Pattakos, a lawyer representing the 13 students who brought the complaint.

University of Akron spokeswoman Christine Boyd said Thursday that the university is still reviewing the complaint. Boyd did say that the program at the center of the lawsuit is still accredited by one board, but lost its dual-accreditation status. 

The Marriage and Family Counseling and Therapy program, under the School of Counseling, offered students a degree that was accredited by both the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Relate Educational Programs and the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education.

The school marketed it as “one of a limited number of such programs nationwide,” Pattakos said in the news release.

The suit says the driving force behind the decision not to seek re-accreditation was Robert Schwartz, and that he was motivated to tank the program as part of a personal grudge he held against its director.

Karin Jordan, who led the program, reported Schwartz to school officials for misconduct around 2012, the suit says. Jordan’s complaint involved Schwartz being overseas while he said was supervising the Clinic for Individual and Family Counseling and, as a result, the university removed Schwartz from the position, the suit says.

Schwartz was tapped as the liaison between the program and the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Relate Educational Programs. He was also the head of another doctoral counseling program that was accredited by the same counsel and saw the dual-accreditation program as a competitor to his own, the suit says. 

Schwartz overstated negative findings in the counsel’s March 2017 evaluation of the program and then convinced university officials to let the program’s accreditation by the commission lapse, losing the program’s dual accreditation, according to the complaint.

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