January 21, 2020

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Risk Associated with Failure of Programs to Gain Timely Accreditation

In an effort to add new programs to meet the needs and interests of students and faculty, many colleges and universities will admit students to programs that are still in the process of seeking the necessary accreditation. The typical expectation is that such programs will have gained the required accreditation by the time the students have completed their course of study. However, a recent Ohio case is a good reminder that schools must remain diligent in the timely pursuit of all mandatory accreditations or risk litigation with students who feel they were harmed by the failure of the school to provide its most basic product - a degree that is recognized by all appropriate licensing bodies and generally in the marketplace

A recent decision from the Ohio Tenth Appellate District (Patel v. The University of Toledo) highlights the legal exposure a school may face if it fails to timely obtain all of the necessary accreditations for a particular program.  In the Patel case, a nursing student alleged that the Dean stated on the first day of classes that the nursing program would be accredited by the time of the inaugural class’s graduation. The prediction by the Dean turned out to be not accurate.

On appeal, the court stated that the Dean’s assertion that the nursing program would be accredited before the first student graduated from the program created a genuine issue of material fact that would allow the trial court to consider (i) whether the student justifiably relied on the Dean to her detriment, (ii) whether the Dean or other school personnel committed fraud, and (iii) whether the school was liable for negligent misrepresentation about the timing of the accreditation of the program.

Going forward, all schools should be careful not to have school personnel make statements that can be construed as guarantees of outcomes over which the school does not have the ability to control.

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Michael Flowers, Steptoe Johnson Law Firm, Corporate Law and Finance Attorney
Of Counsel

Michael Flowers focuses his practice in the areas of business, real estate, and corporate finance law.  He is a former Chief Legal Counsel of KBK Enterprises (a multi-state real estate development company) where he was in charge of business activities and real estate projects. Mr. Flowers is a former partner of Bricker & Eckler, LLP and has extensive experience in corporate law, corporate governance, corporate financing, mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, formation of business entities, venture capital financing and emerging entity representation, and...

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William M. Lane, Steptoe Johnson, Trusts and Estate Lawyer
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Bill Lane focuses his practice in the areas of trusts and estates, real estate law, construction law, non-profit and for profit corporate law, and administrative law.

 

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