50+ Concordia students join class action suit

Education

Many Concordia students affected are former Marylhurst students

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Concordia University, by students who say they were misled about the university’s financial status and want refunds on their tuition.

On Monday, Feb. 10, the private, nonprofit Christian university in Portland abruptly announced plans to close by the end of the academic year. In a statement and video, university Interim President, Rev. Thomas Ries said the college’s board of regents voted the prior Friday, Feb. 7 to cease operations at the end of the spring 2020 semester.

A statement released by the university cited “years of mounting financial challenges, and a challenging and changing educational landscape.” In a lawsuit filed by attorney Michael Fuller, students say those years of financial challenges were not disclosed by the university to students, who applied and paid tuition fees to the college expecting to complete their degrees there.

“Concordia University misled hundreds of students about its financial condition, and collected tuition in 2020 that students would not have paid had the students known the truth about Concordia University’s looming closure,” the complaint states.

Concordia Athletics. February 10, 2020 (KOIN)

The university indicated it has more than 6,000 current students.

Fuller said the university likely knew it was in financial trouble, but continued to recruit students both at its Portland campus and through its online degree programs, who likely had no chance of ever earning a degree there.

“A university can choose not to disclose its financial information to its students, but if it turns out the students were misled, then they have a case,” Fuller said, likening the situation to “selling someone a lifetime supply to a gym when you know it’s going to close tomorrow.”

The attorney said he was contacted by Concordia students the day of the announcement, and now has more than 50 students joining the lawsuit.

Many of those students have been in this situation before.

In 2018, another private Oregon university- Marylhurst University, shuttered. Fuller helped Marylhurst students file a class action lawsuit against the school, which was eventually settled for undisclosed amounts.

Many of Marylhurst’s former students turned to Concordia when they needed to transfer to a new school, Fuller noted.

“Within an hour or two (of the announcement) I had been contacted by three or four of my former clients,” Fuller said of former Marylhurst students who are now finding themselves caught in the middle of another private college shut down fiasco.

Marylhurst university_1526589088327.jpg.jpg
Marylhurst University (KOIN, file)

“A lot of them have maxed out their financial aid and taken out private loans to pay for school,” he said.

The lawsuit alleges Concordia misrepresented its services by omission, leaving students to pay for college credits that may not transfer to other universities, and without the ability to graduate. Concordia even touted a long-range plan that said, “by 2024, ‘all students of Concordia University-Portland will be actively engaged in a university that enjoys a strong national reputation in select programs preparing leaders for the transformation of society through educational experiences grounded in relationships and centered in servant leadership, rigor, and Lutheran identity and values.'”

Fuller said universities typically have insurance policies that cover legal issues like this, but noted, “if (Concordia) promises to give tuition refunds to every single one of the students, I’ll dismiss the case and cover my own costs.”

The university has yet to respond to the legal complaint and has not responded to requests for comment on other financial matters surrounding its nonprofit foundation.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 News media partner

Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather

App

Download our FREE news and weather apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up for our email newsletters.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Headlines

More News

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss

Twitter News Widget