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Students file lawsuit against CSU for not accrediting master’s program

Twelve Colorado State University alumni are suing CSU for allegedly not accrediting its landscape architecture graduate program, despite promises from the University.

The plaintiffs graduated between 2012-2017, and are asserting claims of asserting claims such as breach of contract and unjust enrichment. 

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The lawsuit, filed at the Denver District Court on March 20, alleges that the students incurred financial damages through expenses such as tuition, cost of living and debt from the master’s program. Other damages listed include lost and reduced earnings and lost opportunities as result from attending a non-accredited program. The lawsuit demands CSU to repay the students’ tuition and pay for related litigation fees.

While the master’s program was not accredited by the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the lawsuit alleges that the students attended the program because CSU said they would pursue accreditation. According to the lawsuit, the program, which received approval from Board of Governors and the Colorado Commission of Higher Education, was not accredited when the first class of students graduated. However, the University continued to promise accreditation.

According to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, most licensing board require architects to hold a professional degree from an accredited program. While CSU offers an accredited undergraduate program according to the CSU 2017-18′ catalog, many employers may not hire an employee from an unaccredited program such as the master’s. 

In an email exchange between CSU Alumna Erin Brown and horticulture and landscape architecture professor Bradley Goetz between May 8, 2012 and May 9, 2012, Goetz responded to Brown’s concerns that the program, which began in the fall of 2010, was not accredited. At the time, Brown was a prospective student of the program.

“The program cannot be accredited until after there has been a graduating class,” Goetz wrote. “We plan to work toward accreditation according to the process identified by the Landscape Architecture Board (LAAB).”

CSU Alumnus Scott Preston emailed horticulture and land architecture professor Bradley Goetz on Nov. 3, 2014, inquiring about the accreditation timeline.

“I’m staring at a mountain of debt from attending the program and really just want to know if there is a commitment to this goal,” Scott wrote. “The only reason I came to CSU is because this was promised.”

Around May 23, 2017, Preston was told in a letter by Jessica Davis, the department head of horticulture and landscape architecture, that CSU would not be pursuing accreditation and was never pursuing it. Davis announced to students on April 17, 2017 that the program would be put on hiatus due to insufficient funds, according to documents obtained by the Coloradoan

 The University will not comment on the pending litigation, wrote Mike Hooker, CSU executive director of public affairs and communications in an email to The Collegian.

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Collegian Night Editor Seth Bodine can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @sbodine120. Collegian News Director Haley Candelario contributed to this report.

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