The University of Illinois College of Law (Illinois Law) will be required to pay a fine of $250,000 to the American Bar Association (ABA) because the law school intentionally inflated the test scores of its incoming students. The funds will be used to support monitoring and compliance efforts related to data reporting and publication requirements.
The ABA’s censure criticized Illinois Law for misleading applicants, students and other law schools and for undermining confidence in the legal profession and its accreditation process.
Illinois Law had been caught earlier misrepresenting its Lexis and Westlaw costs to inflate its per-student expenditures, which boosted the school’s U.S. News & World Report ranking. When the misrepresentations were revealed, the school’s ranking dropped. It seems that the motivation for this more recent misreporting was a new attempt to increase the school’s U.S. News & World Report ranking.
Illinois Law’s misconduct was revealed by a whistleblower who informed university officials that the credentials posted for the class of 2014 were inaccurate. The ensuing internal investigation showed that for three years Illinois Law had reported inaccurate student data to the ABA. According to the National Law Journal, the discrepancies were small the first year, but they increased over time.
This is the ABA’s first fine for misreporting student data, but that doesn’t mean that the problem is an isolated one. Villanova University School of Law was censured by the ABA last year for similar violations, but such education fraud is seen far more often among undergraduate schools. For-profit universities have been known to use fraudulent marketing and recruitment tactics to enable the schools to benefit from federally supported student loan revenue.
The False Claims Act has allowed the government to recover millions of dollars improperly paid to these universities. To pursue recovery of these funds, federal authorities often have to rely on whistleblowers with inside information about fraudulent activity. In some cases, university employees have brought lawsuits for the benefit of the government under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act. These whistleblowers are entitled to receive a share in any recovery obtained in such lawsuits.
Waters & Kraus is a national firm with highly skilled lawyers practicing qui tam litigation in four offices, including Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Baltimore. Our attorneys have decades of experience successfully representing whistleblowers in a variety of fraud cases. Contact us or call our attorneys at 800.226.9880 to learn more about our practice and how we can assist.