Trump University – it’s not a place, it’s not a school, it’s not accredited, and you don’t get a degree. And Donald Trump had very little to do with it. So what makes it a university? Nothing, said the New York State Department of Education, after Trump set up seminars in New York and elsewhere for his now-defunct “get rich” classes. And, as the GOP candidates ramp up for Super Tuesday, the begrimed scuttlebutt has been pushed front and center by Trump’s fellow Republican hopefuls.
Writes the New York Times on Feb. 27, via MSN News: “The now-defunct Trump University, the subject of one of Marco Rubio’s attacks on Donald J. Trump at the Republican presidential debate Thursday night, was not a real university at all but a series of seminars held in hotels across the country that promised to share Mr. Trump’s real estate investing acumen with students. It is still embroiled in lawsuits accusing it of misrepresentation.”
Rubio came out swinging about Trump University, undoubtedly saving that discrediting scorcher for the last debate held before Super Tuesday – the biggest day of the 2016 primary season, with 13 states and one territory participating.
“There are people that borrow $36,000 to go to Trump University, and they’re suing him now,” Mr. Rubio said, seemingly unable to control his own glee. “And you know what they got? They got to take a picture with a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump.”
The Trump University company was founded in 2005, offering initially free seminars that summarized what the so-called university would school individuals in: real estate flipping, asset management, entrepreneurship, and wealth creation. Start up fees ranged from $1,500 for seminar courses to $35,000 for full mentoring programs.
“Seventy-six percent of the world’s millionaires made their fortunes in real estate,” Trump said in an email marketing blast at the time. “Now it’s your turn. My father did it, I did it, and now I’m ready to teach you how to do it.”
In 2010, the real estate mogul changed the business name to the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, after the New York State Department of Education investigated complaints and said calling the classes a “university” was both “misleading and even illegal.”
A year later, the New York Attorney General’s office investigated Trump for “illegal business practices” in connection with his university, and in 2013, filed a $40 million civil suit against the institution. At the time, Trump called New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, “a political hack looking to get publicity.”
In an infomercial for his university, Trump said: “And honestly, if you don’t learn from them, if you don’t learn from me, if you don’t learn from the people that we’re going to be putting forward, and these are all people handpicked by me, then you’re just not going to make it in terms of world-class success.” And yet in a deposition in 2012 for the lawsuit, Trump admitted he never selected any instructors and did not oversee any of the curriculum.
Three active lawsuits are now pending – the one filed by New York State and two related California class actions. Trump also faces nearly a dozen civil complaints by individuals in eleven states who have made formal appeals to their Attorney General’s office. In New York alone, close to 7,000 people bought into the sales pitch, spending an estimated $40 million.
According to Attorney General Schneiderman’s website, the New York lawsuit accuses Trump University of being nothing more than a “bait and switch” scheme and called out the widely distributed advertisements for being replete with false claims. In general, people with motivational speaking backgrounds were hired to run the program and seminars. A manager of Buffalo Wild Wings was one of the individuals people paid thousands to listen to.
“Mr. Trump used his celebrity status and personally appeared in commercials making false promises to convince people to spend tens of thousands of dollars they couldn’t afford for lessons they never got one,” Schneiderman said. “No one, no matter how rich or popular they are, has a right to scam hard working New Yorkers. Anyone who does should expect to be held accountable.”
Adds the Washington Post: “During the three-day workshops, Trump University instructors urged students to call their credit card companies and request increased borrowing limits, ostensibly so they’d have more capital to invest in real estate, according to students’ sworn affidavits. But the New York complaint alleges that the real reason was so students could buy Trump University packages.”
In wake of the allegations, Trump set up a website, called 98percentapproval.com, in which the Trump University program is vigorously defended.