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Just how terrible was Donald Trump’s for-profit university?

Reuters/Lucas Jackson
By Amy X. Wang
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Learn from the world’s most famous real estate mogul. Receive a personalized business education, full of useful tips and tricks. Make millions.

That was the premise of Trump University, Donald Trump’s for-profit education company that ran a series of real estate seminars from 2005 to 2010. But it was certainly not the reality, if the handful of ongoing lawsuits against the university from former students are anything by which to judge. Ex-students allege that the Republican candidate’s school deceived them into paying high tuition while never delivering on its educational promises.

Documents unsealed Tuesday (May 31) under court order, featuring testimony from former Trump University employees, make those accusations all the more damning.

The school gave employees “playbooks” on how to get poor individuals to shell out thousands of dollars for courses, some of the testimonies say. Former event manager Corrine Sommer says teachers routinely instructed students to max out their credit cards to afford the $35,000 price tag on the school’s “elite program”—a package of several seminars, retreats, and “in-field mentorship” days. Jason Nicholas, who worked as a sales executive, says representatives would often tell flat-out lies about the school, including false claims about teachers’ qualifications.

Some particularly striking comments come from former sales manager, Ronald Schnackenberg:

While Trump University claimed that its teachers and mentors were all experts in real estate, I believe that most of the instructors, mentors and coaches had very little or no personal experience in the real estate techniques they were teaching … For example, David Stamper was a mentor and front end speaker, but his background was in jewelry making …
To my knowledge, not a single consumer who paid for a Trump University Seminar programs went on to successfully invest in real estate.
Based on my personal experience and employment, I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.

Trump, Schnackenberg and others say, never hand-picked faculty members or delivered personal advice as the school claimed he would. Yet according to one top executive who testified, Trump did lead the school’s strategic efforts in one area—marketing.

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