Lily Albrecht isn’t getting what she paid for, she says.
That’s why she’s planning on joining as a plaintiff a lawsuit that was filed against
on Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court.
Albrecht, an eighth grade English teacher in Libertyville, said she is set to graduate from Concordia’s school counseling master’s program in May.
But she recently learned that the $20,000 or so she has spent on tuition and countless hours of studying aren’t going to earn her the degree she’d been expecting, Albrecht said.
Concordia recently decided to end its school counseling program’s accreditation with the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs – a key in getting hired in some school districts and a requirement to sit for a Licensed Professional Counselor exam.
“As of right now, we’re within months of graduation, and we can’t put on a resume that we are accredited by the CACREP,” said a frustrated Albrecht, who’s completing an internship this semester. The internship is the last step toward earning what she thought would be an accredited degree.
Albrecht said she knows several peers in the graduate program who had plans to quit their jobs and become licensed counselors.
Now, they’ll have to take three additional courses, which the university has offered to pay for, to take the exam. Those three courses would help them fulfill requirements for the
master’s program, which is still accredited.
But some students, Albrecht said, don’t want to have to take these additional classes.
The university said financial burdens and new accreditation requirements compelled Concordia administrators to choose to not renew the program’s accreditation, which it has had since 1996.
Even though university officials said they contacted the accrediting body to request that it “grandfather” accreditation to Concordia’s 2013 and 2014 graduates, the university said its request was denied.
The students who are part of the lawsuit are asking that the university reimburse their tuition costs as well as damages for the devalued degree.
Eric Matanyi, assistant vice president of marketing for Concordia, said the university has maintained contact with students “throughout the course of this situation.”
He forwarded to the Tribune several letters that had been sent to students, on Nov. 30, 2012, and Feb. 7, that described options for students in the graduate school counseling program.
Those included: continuing on with a non-accredited program (they noted
doesn’t require this organization’s accreditation); transferring to the mental health counseling program, which still is accredited; or transferring to other schools.
Albrecht said she and her peers didn’t consider any of those options attractive.
Without accepting a lesser degree, the additional classes they’d have to take for the mental health program – which isn’t the focus these students wanted – or at a different institution would take up valuable time.
“We put in three years of our life and so much money,” Albrecht said. “So much time.”