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To state a claim for breach of contract, the plaintiff must do more than simply allege that the education was not good enough. Instead, he must point to an identifiable contractual promise that the defendant failed to honor. Thus, if the defendant took tuition money and then provided no education, or alternately, promised a set number of hours of instruction and then failed to deliver, a breach of contract action may be available. Similarly, a breach of contract action might exist if a student enrolled in a course explicitly promising instruction that would qualify him as a journeyman, but in which the fundamentals necessary to attain that skill were not even presented.
Appellant Kevin Ross accepted an athletic scholarship to attend appellee Creighton University, an academically superior university. Ross came from an academically disadvantaged background. At the time of his enrollment at Creighton, Ross was at an academic level far below that of the average Creighton student. Creighton realized Ross’ academic limitations when it admitted him, and to induce him to attend and play basketball, Creighton assured Ross that he would receive sufficient tutoring so that he “would receive meaningful education while at Creighton.” Ross asserted that Creighton failed to provide him with sufficient and competent tutoring that it had promised. Ross filed suit against Creighton for negligence and breach of contract. Ross’ complaint advanced three separate theories of how Creighton was negligent towards him. First, he contended that Creighton committed "educational malpractice" by not providing him with a meaningful education and preparing him for employment after college. Second, Ross claimed that Creighton negligently inflicted emotional distress upon him by enrolling him in a stressful university environment for which he was not prepared, and then by failing to provide remedial programs that would have helped him survive there. Third, Ross urged the court to adopt a new cause of action for the tort of "negligent admission," which would allow recovery when an institution admitted, and then did not adequately assist, a woefully unprepared student. The district court dismissed Ross’ action for failure to state a claim. Ross challenged the decision.
Did the district court err in dismissing appellant’s claims against the university for negligence and breach of contract arising from the university’s alleged failure to educate him?
Yes, with respect to the breach of contract claim. No, with respect to the negligence claim.
The court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part. The court held that Illinois courts would deny appellant's claims for educational malpractice, negligent admission, and negligent of emotional distress because theories of education were not uniform, but different and acceptable scientific methods of academic training made it infeasible to formulate a standard by which to judge the conduct of those delivering the services. On the other hand, the court held that appellant stated a claim for breach of contract by alleging that appellee reneged on its commitment to provide certain specific services. The court held that adjudication of such a claim would be limited to whether appellee had provided any real access to its academic curriculum.