Familiar to many Americans for its nationwide billboards, print ads, and long-running television commercials, DeVry University—one of the biggest names in for-profit US education—will now forever be linked to deceptive marketing.
On Thursday (Dec. 15), the US Federal Trade Commission announced a $100 million settlement with the school and its parent company over a lawsuit accusing the school of misleading tens of thousands of prospective students by touting overly high post-grad employment rates and income levels. The suit followed a similar complaint from the US Education Department earlier this year.
The company—while denying ”all allegations of wrongdoing”—will now pay $49.4 million in cash to students harmed by the deceptive ads, and $50.6 million debt relief. DeVry is based in Illinois but operates more than 50 campuses across the country, as well as several online degree programs.
Almost exactly a year ago, Education Management Corporation, another giant for-profit school, also paid $100 million to settle federal accusations of wrongdoing, though the specifics of financial manipulation were different. But months prior, for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges was forced by the government to pay $530 million for financially misleading students—a sum that caused it to go bankrupt. Then there’s the $25 million US president-elect Donald Trump recently had to cough up for claims of deceptive advertising against his for-profit real estate school, Trump University.
Such instances, when you add them up, would seem to cast doubt on the nature of for-profit education itself: a business model that prioritizes money-making over educating.
“When people are making important decisions about their education and their future, they should not be misled by deceptive employment and earnings claims,” FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement concerning the DeVry settlement. But in the for-profit world, students are viewed more like consumers—and it’s not necessarily their interests that most companies have at heart.