A group of six DeVry University graduates have filed a
putative class-action suit, claiming the nationwide electronics and business
school overstates the employment rates of graduates, so as to attract new
The suit was lodged Oct. 14 in U.S. District Court for
Northern Illinois by named plaintiffs, including Debbie Petrizzo, of New York;
Renee H. Polly and Brandy Van Buren, both of Missouri; Melissa Lotzman, of
Colorado; Jamison Purry, of Oregon; and Cheryl Costello, of Kansas. The
plaintiffs, who said they all obtained degrees from DeVry, are alleging DeVry
violated consumer protection laws in Illinois and five other states.
DeVry University, which was founded in 1970, is based in
suburban Downers Grove. The school offers degrees through more than 50 campuses
spread across 18 states. According to plaintiffs, DeVry has spent annually more
than $135 million in recent years on marketing, and enrolls 29,000 to 49,000
new students per year.
Plaintiffs alleged DeVry tries to draw potential students by
falsely claiming that since 1975, about 90 percent of graduates land “careers
in their field within six months of graduation.” Plaintiffs said none of them
were able to snare jobs within that period.
As an example of the alleged deception, plaintiffs cited a DeVry
television commercial that exhorted potential students to “Join the 90%.”
The same allegedly misleading message is advanced in other
forms of media, such as brochures and online presentations, as well as by DeVry
representatives speaking in person with potential enrollees, according to the
suit. DeVry training manuals direct representatives to make such pitches, the
Plaintiffs pointed out the advertising is not “mere
puffery,” but an attempt is made to lend credence, with the inclusion of
explanations, footnotes and definitions. DeVry also adjusts its advertising
from time to time to make its 90 percent claim appear valid, plaintiffs
DeVry arrived at the 90 percent figure by slanting
statistics, the suit alleged.
DeVry allegedly counts graduates, who continue to work in
the job they held before attending DeVry, as working in their chosen career
after graduation. Plaintiffs further alleged DeVry also includes graduates who
did get new work, but in jobs that “employers, industry experts, graduates, and
consumers would not reasonably consider to be in the graduate’s field of
Plaintiffs alleged that from their examination of DeVry
files, the number of graduates, obtaining a job because of their DeVry
education, is “markedly below 90 percent.”
Plaintiffs said their action was sparked by the Federal
Trade Commission’s suit in January 2016 against DeVry, which accused DeVry of
making deceptive claims. Plaintiffs argued they would not have purchased
DeVry’s services, or paid as much if they did, had “they known the true facts.”
Plaintiffs want DeVry to be prohibited from continuing to
make allegedly inaccurate claims and to pay restitution and unspecified
compensatory and punitive damages, as well as plaintiffs’ legal costs.
Plaintiffs are represented
by Wolf, Haldenstein, Adler, Freeman & Herz, of New York and Chicago, as
well as by Gainey McKenna & Egleston, of New York and Paramus, N.J.