You don’t always get what you pay for. Since at least 2008, DeVry University has advertised impressive success rates for its graduates. Today the Federal Trade Commission filed suit against the for-profit university’s parent company, DeVry Education Group, alleging that its marketing materials hoodwinked prospective students about employment success.
Unsubstantiated claims about student outcomes not only hurt the students and families who invest in higher education as a means to high-quality careers, they’re also illegal. DeVry advertisements on television, radio, online, print and other media claim that 90 percent of its graduates actively seeking employment landed jobs in their field of study within six months of graduation and that their incomes one year after graduation were 15 percent higher on average than graduates of all other colleges or universities. The university offers online and on-campus classes to more than 40,000 students in the U.S. and Canada.
DeVry’s marketing practices may have impacted 30,000 to 50,000 students, FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a press conference. The FTC complaint cites cases where DeVry counted graduates as “working in their field,” when in fact they were far from it, including an MBA with a specialization in health services management working as a server in a restaurant and other graduates whose work was listed as unpaid volunteer positions.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is also taking action against DeVry, giving notice to the university that it must stop certain advertising regarding the post-graduation employment outcomes of its students. ED will also require DeVry to notify prospective students of the department’s action during the enrollment process.
“Accountability and transparency from all higher education institutions is critically important to give students and families faith and encouragement that they’re making a worthwhile investment in their careers and receiving a high-quality education promised by their institutions,” Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said during the press conference, adding that the department will continue to take action in all cases in which a school’s marketing and recruitment fail to meet legal standards.
The federal measures are the latest in a series of investigations into for-profit colleges. Last year, for-profit Corinthian Colleges closed its doors after the Education Department sued it for similar misrepresentations.
Details on whether and how DeVry students will be afforded monetary relief will play out during the course of the litigation. The lawsuit might make it easier for those who took out federal loans to have their debt cancelled.
Mitchell said the Education Department is in the midst of ongoing investigations against DeVry, and the primary goal of today’s complaint is to stop the misleading marketing practices. “In order to protect students, to ensure accountability and transparency in higher education, the Department will continue to take action in all cases in which a school’s marketing and recruitment fail to meet legal standards."