Seattle U students sue, say school promised master’s degree in nursing that wasn’t state-approved

Current and former nursing students in the doctoral program are suing Seattle University. They said they were promised a master’s degree and never received it.

SEATTLE — In a lawsuit filed Thursday against Seattle University, four former and current students say the school lied about promising degrees that no student had ever received.

Students who are enrolled in a doctoral program but believe they can gain a master’s degree in nursing.

“Becoming a graduate has always been my goal,” says Shelby Stephens, a former Seattle University graduate. “It was years of preparation; I went to college at UC Santa Cruz to eventually go to graduate school.”

College is the plan for Stephens, where she can earn a Master of Science in Nursing. It will allow her to have more influence and pay.

“Seattle U is a reputable institution; I chose it for that reason,” Stephens said.

Stephens now says the university has no credibility and fails to deliver on its promises. She enrolled in 2019 and spent the year working towards her degree. With a diploma in hand, her goal is to get a job as a nurse in California. Then she got a phone call, “And was told by the California Board of Registered Nurses that I don’t have a degree on my transcript.”

Unbeknownst to Stephens and her students, there was a serious behind-the-scenes argument about the university’s advanced nursing program. Washington State sent a letter to the university warning that its Master of Nursing program had not been approved by the nursing committee.

“I was desperate, when you’re in that situation, you’re like I don’t have a job, I don’t have a degree and I have no way to make money,” Stephens said.

Stephens and her classmates each paid nearly $70,000 in tuition for a degree. They want their money back. Their next step was to file a complaint with the state, saying it was an “unpleasant and unfair experience.”

“It doesn’t make any sense either. That’s the most important thing, somehow I’d pay for something and not get it,” Stephens said.

Last November, the state concluded the university had broken the law. They ruled the school used false and inaccurate information.

However, the state did not sanction because the school voluntarily abandoned this master’s program.

“It was a moment of contention and a few months felt completely devastated,” says Stephens.

Seattle University released a statement on Friday saying it is aware of the lawsuit and cares deeply for its students and regrets any disruption it has caused.

The statement reads, in part:

“The university was accredited to award an MSN, but ultimately, the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission (NCQAC) did not approve the university’s proposal to award an MSN to those this doctoral student, approves the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

“Finally, because the College of Nursing corrected its communication to clarify that the proposed MSN was pending NCQAC approval, the NCQAC resolved the technical violation to the administrative code without no more action in November 2021. NCQAC also approved a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program for students in the APNI to DNP program—allowing those students to practice as nurses in the states states require a nursing degree—as they progress to a doctorate.”

Read the full statement, here.

“We know there was a breach, that the school made a false promise about MSN [Master in Nursing] degree. We don’t know how they broke state law,” attorney Andrew Ackley told Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore.

Ackley filed a lawsuit against the school on Thursday. In it, four students accused the university of doing more than betraying them. They say the school’s actions are so serious that they constitute fraud, negligent misrepresentation and even fraud.

“Not even being able to trust their educators is an affront to our future frontline and to the public as a whole. Their education is overseen by administrative agencies to protect the public,” Ackley said.

As for Stephens, the university eventually awarded her a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She’s working in a hospital in California but she doesn’t have a master’s degree. She may never get one.

“I don’t think I’m going back to school, and I don’t think I’m out of school,” Stephens said.

Clock: KING 5 top stories on YouTube Seattle U students sue, say school promised master’s degree in nursing that wasn’t state-approved

Edmuns DeMars

Edmund DeMarche is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Edmund DeMarche joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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