As the long-standing legal situation on trump card University involves a close, this brief looks at brand-new evidence and also insights ~ above Trump and also his hallmark education initiative.

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President Donald Trump speaks at a women"s empowerment panel in the east Room of the White home in Washington, march 29, 2017. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

When Donald Trump very first launched Trump college in 2005, he stated that the program’s aim was altruistic. Coming off his success as a truth television display host, Trump declared that the trump University program was dedicated to helping human being gain genuine estate an abilities and knowledge. At the Trump university launch event, Trump called reporters the he hoped to produce a “legacy as an educator” by “imparting many knowledge” v his program.1

Today, that clear that Trump college was far from charitable. In fact, trump University’s actual estate seminars regularly didn’t provide that much education; at part seminars, that seemed favor the instructors aimed to perform little more than bilk money from world who dreamed of successful genuine estate careers. Together one person who attend the regime wrote on a feedback type examined by the authors, “Requesting we raise our credit limits on our credit cards at lunch Friday seemed a small transparent.”2

Lawyers at some point filed three separate lawsuits from 2010 come 2013 versus Trump university for, amongst other claims, “deceptive practices.”3 Donald Trump has agreed to pay a $25 million settlement to the civilization who to visit Trump college in 2007, 2008, 2009, or 2010.4

Founded in 2005, trump University began by providing online courses yet eventually transitioned into offering in-person seminars and mentorship services.5 Overall, trumped University functioned from 2005 until 2010 with thousands of students, 6,000 of whom are covered for damages under the negotiation agreement.6 end time, as Trump sought greater profits, the company’s model shifted come offering an ext in-person seminars. Former Trump university Chief finding out Officer i get it Schank said that jae won hardship may have pushed trump to push toward the bigger profits. The said, “I think Donald Trump was in negative times … it changed because Donald Trump required the money.”7

Near the end, Trump college focused practically exclusively top top the seminars, both to run them and also licensing the brand name out to an organization called organization Strategies Group.8 these seminars often began with a cost-free session to get human being in the door. Once people arrived, salespeople regularly tried to upsell lock the “Trump upstream Packages,” ranging from the Bronze elite Package for $9,995 as much as the yellow Elite Package because that $34,995.9 when these seminars started to flourish, the program became, in essence, a series of hotel ballroom consultations through salespeople rather than any sort of scholastic course.10

Given Trump’s presidential election success in November, the authors determined to do brand-new research on trumped University. The authors think that the administration of Trump college illuminates a business technique that might be indicative that Trump’s dealings as president. The authors likewise believe that together the Trump college legal instance comes come a close, it’s worth revisiting the statements of individuals who paid because that the program and complained around being taken benefit of. As component of this work, the writer studied state records and court documents derived through freedom of information Act requests indigenous multiple sources, and also previous research, and also examined elements of documents pertaining to Trump university that they think have not previously been examined. The authors also studied Trump’s windy statements on the case and also examined client surveys to burned light top top participants’ experience in trump University.

The findings provide some vital insights, offered the fact that trump card himself aided orchestrate trumped University.11 Indeed, the proof is clear the the president was associated in many key decisions neighboring the educational initiative, and at the very least for some prosecutors, it appeared that Trump engaged in “patterns that racketeering activity,” and also did for this reason “knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully,” through the administration of the cheat organization.12

On march 30, a san Diego federal court will fulfill to decide13 on this settlement agreement, and also observers widely think that the hearing will reach the exact same decision together the preliminary approval in January, essentially ending the case. In January, the court granted preliminary approval come a $25 million negotiation proposal. The settlement allots $21 million in accumulation to the students that were defrauded by trumped University and $4 million to fix the brand-new York lawyer general’s case. The trump Entrepreneur Initiative, the new name offered to Trump college after brand-new York public official objected to the ax ‘university’ being used, inserted the $25 million in an escrow account pending final approval the the settlement.14

Of the approximately 7,000 previous students standard to submit claims, much more than 3,700 have submitted claims to get payment v the settlement. Suspect the settlement is approved, these students will receive a large percentage the the funds the they payment to trump card University.15

Trump University’s high survey ratings don’t hold up under nearby scrutiny

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump routinely touted a 98 percent college student satisfaction price as evidence of the high quality of trumped University. To encourage the 98 percent claim, trump card allies put out a selected batch that surveys on a now-defunct website referred to as These surveys were completed by students after lock attended seminars across the united States and Canada.

As component of this worry brief, the authors examined the written comments top top all obtainable surveys, and also the comments do clear that regardless of “high” ratings ~ above a 5-point scale, a number of Trump university students had actually serious complaints about their experiences. Many individuals complained around the cost, content, and also tactics supplied by the instructors that the university, even as they offered 4- or 5-point ratings. For example, one customer gave all 5-point ratings to the course but complained in the comments that they feel “depressed” and “discouraged” through the aggressive sales tactics offered their i can not qualify to afford further rewarding courses.16

Many world who offered the program high clues also provided that the seminar rooms to be exceptionally cold, a common method to keep civilization awake. Other complaints ~ above the surveys were around upselling. “Don’t ridicule world who need to get up because that a break. Don’t make every little thing a sales pitch. We paid $1,500 because that information, no for a sales pitch,” one human being wrote ~ above a survey in 2008.17 In another survey indigenous 2008, an individual made the very same complaint, writing, “I payment $1,500 to find out not to hear to advertising.”18

Time magazine suggested that the surveys relied top top “shaky math,”19 given the big refund request rate from unsatisfied consumers—32 percent for the three-day seminar and also 16 percent because that the gold Elite package.20 follow to The brand-new York Times, Trump college students were also consistently pressured to give high ratings top top course evaluation surveys, regardless of your opinions of the course.21

The writer looked v the surveys and identified dozens of examples of surveys whereby customers rated the course highly—a 3, 4, or 5 top top a 1 come 5 range of satisfaction—but climate complained about aspects the the course.

The composed comments in the surveys also illustrate few of the extreme sales tactics offered by Trump college instructors. Many of the student complained that the techniques made castle uncomfortable. The students likewise felt pressured right into making decision they didn’t want to make. For example, one 2008 client complained the they “request we boost our credit boundaries on our credit cards” during the first day the the seminar.22

This was not an aberration. There to be literally a “playbook” spelling the end these tactics.23 when the playbook has been previously reported top top in the press, a few examples that the methods are listed below, since they underscore the written comments top top the surveys.

Staff members were instructed come target vulnerable world for sales, v a clear effort to recognize targets together as single mothers and the elderly. The 2010 Playbook, v the mantra of “One Company. One Culture. One Goal. Achieving continual Profitability in 2010,” spelled the end scripts and sales tactics that preyed on consumers’ vulnerabilities. Within the examples given come salespeople, instructors were told to target these vulnerabilities—“or example: room they a solitary parent that three children that may need money for food?” A previous instructor defined it as an initiative that “preyed top top the elderly and also uneducated to different them from your money.”24

The survey comments additionally underscore the truth that staff were instructed come aggressively press students to buy the many expensive options, and even to max the end their credit transaction to salary for an ext expensive courses such together the $35,000 gold Package. The same playbook instructed employees to to convince customers to usage a “technique” called “OPM,” or “Other People’s Money,” as a method of advertise them to use credit upfront.25 In solution to this tactics, one college student wrote, “Just teach the topics and stop advertise products and also invoking fear. We are not ignorant!”26

One former Trump University event manager, Corrine Sommer, testified that her colleagues to be trained come ask students come “call their credit transaction card companies and also raise their credit boundaries two, three, or four times so that they would have the ability to invest in real estate. They would certainly tell students to max the end their credit card due to the fact that they would make their money back.” In fact, some were told come “charge the course to multiple credit cards” or “to open up as plenty of credit cards together they could.”27

In the end, it’s clear the almost all of the trumped University real estate seminar programs were built for sales, no for education and also that employee were provided with strict written scripts and totally orchestrated sales presentations. Or together the playbook itself argues, employee were an alleged to framework their presentations through a “sales mindset” and also be “Ready come Sell! Sell! Sell!”28

Little proof supports Trump’s claim that universities supported his program

In windy statements on trump University, Trump said that the institution was supported by significant universities, and also he called three colleges specifically: Northwestern, Stanford, and also Columbia company School.29 The authors got to out to all three universities, and also each one distanced us from trump University.

Stanford college was the most straight in the refute the Trump’s claims. A spokesperson said simply, “Stanford University has no involvement v Trump University.”30 Northwestern additionally denied involvement; a spokesperson because that the school claimed that Trump college “apparently requires a previous professor below named roger Schank. He retirement from Northwestern in about 1998. We perform not have any type of information concerning any succeeding affiliation he may have had with trumped University.”31

Columbia organization School do clear that “individual faculty” helped develop early programs but have nothing to carry out with the real estate regimen that ended up being the heart of trump University. In a statement listed by the university, Don Sexton, a professor at the business school, said, “If the allegations space true, then they took something the was draft to help struggling small business owners and corrupted it.”32

Finally, part have noted that i get it Schank aided Trump University construct its education curriculum. But Schank denies being involved at the time of the real estate seminars: “I wasn’t there,” he wrote in a 2016 blog post.33

Trump university instructors were no hand-picked by trumped himself

In public, Trump said that he hand-picked the finest professors to lead Trump University’s seminars. But a close look reveals this to be much from the truth. The statement originated v a video clip featuring trump card himself, who says that he chose “terrific” people. He asserted that he had actually personally selected these people due to the fact that they to be the “best that the best.” The video was regularly played in ~ the real estate seminars and served to help convince civilization that they need to pay thousands of dollars because that Trump university courses.34

After the video clip played, instructors reinforced the idea the they were “handpicked” by Donald Trump.35 Indeed, together a sales tactic, numerous Trump college instructors told the audiences the they had actually been chosen personally by trump to be instructors, consisting of Melvin Rich, Mike Kasper, Gerald Martin, and others.36 because that example, in a 2009 presentation, rich stated:

Just therefore you guys know, tonight, the factor that ns was flown here by Mr. Trump in Trump university is to train you men is (sic) since I have been effectively investing in real estate for the last eight years. I have additionally taught thousands of human being all across the country and great Britain just how to invest in actual estate successfully. So, this is why Mr. Trump choose me come come the end here and train v you guys…37

But trump did no hand-pick Melvin Rich; Trump did not even know whether Rich operated at trumped University, much less that he to be a Trump college instructor. In fact, nobody of the speaker were handpicked by Trump.

As Michael Sexton admitted in his testimony, “none of our instructors in ~ the live occasions were hand-picked by Donald trumped … Indeed, only one of the live event speakers because that Trump University—an instructor for one of the progressed courses—had ever also met Donald Trump.”38

Not only had actually Trump never met many of the instructors, however in his deposition, he could not recognize their names or recall what function they play in trump card University. Because that example, several of the instructors touted James Harris as the optimal instructor, someone who Trump had actually known for years and mentored, as someone who might now make students rich.39 Keith Sperry, a Trump university instructor, asserted that Trump college students would learn straight from Harris, calling him Trump’s “number one instructor.”40 In deposition, Trump claimed to no recall whether Harris was an instructor, mentor, or college student at trump University.41 This was not an isolated case. Together name after name was read aloud come Trump, the admitted that he did no recall that they were or whether they were qualified.

In short, it is clear that the Trump college instructors never ever met Trump and that trumped did not know any type of of them, based upon his sworn answer in deposition.42 These individuals were not “terrific” or “successful” or the “best of the best,” together Trump claimed.43 His explanation in the promotional video clip seem to have actually been a sales tactic used to lure people into shelling out thousands of dollars.


Observers such as Julián Castro have actually worried the Trump’s administration might be the many corrupt in history.44 while that stays to be seen, what’s clean is the Trump himself managed an effort that was frequently little an ext than a actual estate sales pitch. The Trump university saga shows reasonably conclusively that the nation’s existing president has a history of ethics problems and is often willing come take advantage of world for his very own profit.

Trump college was no school of higher learning. Seminars were frequently a issue of succeeding sales pitches, at time urging client to cash out their savings and max out their credit cards because that a higher-priced program. In the end, an ext than 6,000 college student seem come have essentially received a theatre-style sales presentation once they should have received a deep and also robust genuine estate education. Some people who gone into the routine in the hopes of detect a coherent pathway come prosperity instead discovered a salesperson that preyed on their financial solvency.

The misrepresentation that Trump university is but another testament come Trump’s willingness come manipulate others for the sake of a bigger paycheck, and Trump seems to have capitalized top top his tv celebrity and appealed come consumers’ fascination through his reality present persona.

The bigger question is this: How much will trump card go as president come enrich self at the price of the poor, the elderly, and single mothers? If the to work of Trump college are any type of indication, then Trump has actually proven himself to be rather comfortable exploiting the hopes, dreams, and also fears of delicate Americans.

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Ulrich Boser is a an elderly Fellow at the facility for American Progress. Danny Schwaber is a special Assistant top top the K-12 education and learning team in ~ the Center. Stephenie Johnson is one Associate campaign Director with the K-12 education team.  

Thanks come Rhea Handa, intern top top the K-12 education team, who contributed research and assistance because that this issue brief. Thanks likewise go to Perpetual Baffour, who assisted in research and writing.


“Just teach the topics and also stop pushing products and invoking fear. We space not ignorant!”45

“I payment $1,500 to learn not to listen to advertising.”46

“I felt depressed and discouraged that us couldn’t do it investing one more $35k that we don’t have. Probably offer more encouragement for people who don’t have actually the money.”47

“Requesting us raise ours credit limits on our credit transaction cards at having lunch Friday seemed a small transparent.”48

“Less selling for various other programs … Worse than TV.”49

“Don’t ridicule people who require to get up because that a break. Don’t make everything a sales pitch. Us paid $1,500 for information, no for a sales pitch.”50

“Promise what you space going to deliver. We were promised expert advisors for a year and also on the 2nd day James stated they space not professionals, they are hired native the Newspaper, you are on her own.”51