I knew the Donald had put his name on many things, but I did not know until recently that he had bestowed his awesomeness on a university. Actually, “Trump University” may not be called that for very long, not because Trump is dropping it but because the state says he can’t call it a “university.” Apparently, the New York Education Department frowns on for-profit, unaccredited institutions using that term, and Trump U. is very much both of those things.
Especially the for-profit part, according to a new lawsuit.
A plaintiff recently sued the company in the Southern District of California, alleging that it had promised her (and other similarly situated persons, of course) a “mentorship” in real-estate investing, telling consumers that signing up will be the “next best thing to being Donald Trump’s next ‘Apprentice.'” But the “primary lesson Trump University teaches its students,” she alleges, “is how to spend more money buying more Trump seminars.”
That lesson, at least, she took to heart, because she alleges she spent upwards of $60,000 on “Trump University seminars” over the course of one year.
Plaintiff compares TU’s introductory seminar to an “infomercial” at which students are encouraged to buy a three-day “workshop” for the low, low price of $1,495. The workshop is allegedly designed to persuade attendees to sign up for “Trump Gold Elite” status, which can be had for a mere $34,995. (Plaintiff alleges that one of the things people learn during the workshop is how to raise their credit limit.) She was “reluctant” to sign up for this, she alleges, but did so because of the Trump name and promises of “guaranteed success.” The “mentorship” was not quite what she had expected, though—instead of getting “priceless insight from expert mentors,” the future class members spent two days looking at properties (which you can do for free) and half a day at Home Depot. (Free lunch, though, so it wasn’t completely worthless.) Surprisingly, plaintiff never did make any money at real estate, and now describes her enrollment with TU as a “big mistake.”
While it is definitely part of the fine print, the enrollment form the plaintiff signed does have a disclaimer stating that TU is not making a guarantee or promise of success. It also says that by signing, she acknowledged that “none of the Principals is engaged in rendering financial, legal, accounting, or other professional services or advice,” and that if such services or advice are required, students should “seek the services of a competent professional.” (Note to self: do not pay $34,995 for a seminar given by people who tell you to look elsewhere for “competent professionals.”)
Well, there are not going to be any heroes in this one. If the allegations are true, people did not get much if anything for their money, but on the other hand, maybe they should have known better. After all, almost everybody who is on “The Apprentice” gets fired, don’t they? Not a great track record of success.