Trump University impacts Donald Trump’s success in the polls


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NEW YORK – MAY 23: Real estate mogul Donald Trump (R) speaks as university president Michael Sexton (L) looks on during a news conference announcing the establishment of Trump University May 23, 2005 in New York City. Trump University will consist of on-line courses, CD-ROMS and other learning programs for business professionals. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Story by Carly Berthiaume, Editor-in-Chief

GOP frontrunner and billionaire businessman Donald Trump is embroiled in lawsuits due to the thousands of Trump University students who lost millions in their quests for higher education. He founded Trump University in 2005 to teach students his “secrets to success,” but students were instead encouraged to buy into expensive programs and taught very little of Trump’s trade secrets.

The institution was never technically a “university,” which Trump admitted to knowing, and the name was changed to “Trump Entrepreneur Initiative” in 2010 after the New York State Education Department warned that it was in violation of state law for operating without a NYSED license. Trump University is currently the subject of three separate lawsuits: two California class-action lawsuits and one $40 million case filed in New York by Eric Schneiderman, who was attorney general at the time. Schneiderman called it a straightforward scam, a “classic bait-and-switch scheme.”

According to Donald Trump in the official Trump University promotional video available on YouTube, “At Trump University, we teach success. That’s what it’s all about: success. It’s going to happen to you… If you’re going to achieve anything, you’re going to have to take action, and action is what Trump University is all about. But action is just a small part of Trump University. Trump University is about knowledge, it’s about a lot of different things. Above all, it’s about how to become successful.”

He continued his vague message by saying that Trump University would have terrific professors and adjunct professors, all hand-picked by Donald Trump. His claims of Trump University being a better, shorter, and cheaper education than other institutions’ attracted nearly 7,000 students, many of whom said to have signed up out of trust for Trump and a desire to profit from the first-hand experiences of a billionaire businessman. They all paid thousands for this education in success, and one yoga instructor claims to have paid more than $60,000 and received very little in return. Students who paid fees for expert realtors, supposedly chosen by Trump himself, to serve as mentors complained that their “mentors” often lost contact with them, encouraged them to partake in bad deals, and to invest in business ventures that directly benefitted the mentors.

“So we’re going to teach you business,” Trump said ambiguously in the video, “we’re going to teach you life, we’re going to teach you salesmanship, we’re going to teach you what you need to know. And we’re going to also make sure that no matter what you do, as I said before, you’re going to love it- because if you don’t love it, it’s never ever going to work.”

Prospective students, many of whom were senior citizens, were promised high quality business educations, originally through online classes in 2004 and in 2007, live classes were offered across the country in hotel ballrooms. The first seminar offered was a free 90-minute seminar, in which they learned very little and were encouraged to sign up for another three-day seminar that cost $1,495. The curriculum that was supposedly organized by Trump had, in fact, not been created by Trump at all, and the education included essentially identical information to what Trump had already published in his books. Students were encouraged to sign up for additional courses, including the $9,995 Bronze Elite program, the $19,495 Silver Elite Program, and the $34,995 Gold Elite program. The Gold Elite option offered experienced realtors to mentor students, which appealed to many.

If people were concerned over their ability to pay for the classes, Schneiderman said in his lawsuit that they were “encouraged to call their banks to request an increase of their credit cards’ borrowing limits.” In a tweet defending the school, Trump claimed his students expressed a 98 percent satisfaction rate, but court documents show that nearly 40 percent of the students who signed up for the three-day seminar or more received a refund.

Schneiderman said Trump made around $5 million from Trump University for little to no involvement, despite his name being on it. Reportedly, Trump never even made an appearance at Trump University, though staff members “frequently insinuated” that Trump was likely to stop by during the seminar; students instead were able to take photographs with a life-size cutout photo of Trump.

However, a recent court decision declared that the lawsuits would continue, and according to CNN, the plaintiffs and defense attorneys in the Schneiderman case “both have listed Trump on their witness lists recently submitted to the court.” This means that Trump will likely have to testify in court as the Republican presidential candidate, and court proceedings will probably continue far longer than elections in November.

“I could have settled it, I think, pretty easy; I don’t like settling cases,” Trump said on Face the Nation.

Trump supporters have claimed that the legal action taken against Trump University was political in nature, though Schneiderman argued that when he filed the suit in 2013, he hadn’t foreseen Trump’s future presidential campaign. He also denied being encouraged by President Obama to pursue legal action against Trump.

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