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Ortiz v. Saba Univ. School of Medicine & R3 Education

On August 30, 2023, Student Defense filed a class action lawsuit against Saba University School of Medicine, a for-profit medical school headquartered in Massachusetts that operates on Saba Island in the Dutch Caribbean, and its corporate parent, R3 Education, Inc. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Named Plaintiff Natalia Ortiz and a proposed class of similarly situated students, alleges that Saba and R3 (collectively, Saba) lured potential students with false statements about Saba students’ passage rates on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

In choosing medical schools, perhaps no metric is more important to prospective students than the passage rate on the USMLE—a multi-step test that students must pass before obtaining their medical license in the United States. A high USMLE passage rate signifies to prospective students that the medical school provides a high-quality education, making the substantial financial investment feel like a sound investment in their future.

Recognizing this, Saba advertises that 98%–100% of its students pass Step 1 of the USMLE on their first attempt. Saba describes this passage rate as an “unprecedented achievement” that is “unmatched by any other international medical school,” “better than most U.S. Schools,” and a “testament to the quality of our education.” Saba assures prospective students that “virtually every Saba student passes the USMLE on their first attempt.”

What Saba does not disclose is that, on average, only around 50% of the students who enroll actually sit for the USMLE, as alleged in our complaint. This statistic stands in stark contrast to the roughly 90% of students enrolled at U.S. medical schools who sit for the exam. Ms. Ortiz was ultimately dismissed from Saba in August of 2022 because she failed to pass a pre-test that the school used to screen students from sitting from the USMLE (also something students are not told before they enroll). If students do not pass Saba’s pre-test after four attempts, they are automatically dismissed from the program. 

As alleged, if Saba had disclosed the truth about the number of students who matriculate but do not sit for the USMLE, prospective students, including Ms. Ortiz, would not have enrolled and taken on large amounts of student debt to attend. Ms. Ortiz hopes that the lawsuit will help prevent other students from ending up in her situation.

The lawsuit seeks actual and punitive damages for Ms. Ortiz and all similarly situated students, along with an injunction to prevent Saba from continuing to deceive consumers about its USMLE passage rates. 

On November 3, 2023, Saba filed a motion to dismiss the case, and on December 1, 2023, Ms. Ortiz and her counsel filed an opposition to Saba’s motion. At a hearing on January 17, 2024, U.S. District Judge William G. Young for the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied Saba’s motion. The case will now proceed to discovery.  

If you are a current or former Saba student interested in more information about this lawsuit, please contact us here and let us know about your experience.

Key Case Documents: