A federal judge in Washington has given final approval to a national class action settlement that will provide up to $17 million in tuition vouchers to students who were dissatisfied with educational conferences set up to coincide with the January 2009 presidential inauguration.

The class action against Vienna, Va.-based Envision EMI, which organized the conferences, alleged the company did not live up to its promises, including access to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama and tickets to an inaugural ball. The case alleged breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation, among other claims.

The agreement in Radosti v. Envision EMI LLC, approved by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, provides class members with two $625 transferable vouchers for tuition at future Envision programs. The settlement also requires Envision to set up a scholarship fund if less than $8 million worth of vouchers are claimed.

In her June 8 ruling, Kollar-Kotelly said the vouchers represent a savings of about 18% to 41% off future Envision programs and an approximately 50% refund of the tuition for the January 2009 conferences. Some 15,000 students paid between $2,380 and $2,729 to attend the conferences.

The judge noted that 22 participating state attorneys general and some class objectors argued that the secondary market for the vouchers is not established and that class members may have difficulty selling unused vouchers. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that class members should be able to use web sites to find interested buyers.

Kollar-Kotelly said it is “clear” that the vouchers “will provide meaningful value to those class members who do wish to attend future Envision programs.”

The court appointed James Pizzirusso of Washington’s Hausfeld LLP and Robert Coleman of Chicago’s Coleman Law Firm as class counsel to represent the settlement class. The total award of attorney fees and expenses was nearly $1.5 million.

“While Envision did not have the resources available to provide direct refunds, we believe that this settlement puts significant value into the hands of consumers,” Pizzirusso said in a statement.

Mike Scarcella can be contacted at mscarcella@alm.com.