GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump once said, “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.” Maybe former Trump University students should have heeded this advise before dropping thousands of dollars on his real estate classes? A number of former students claim they were coerced into giving flattering reviews of instructors and classes despite receiving what they called a shoddy education in real estate investment.
Trump, who has come under fire for the real estate classes during his presidential campaign, uses past students’ score and claims of 98 percent satisfaction to counter accusations of fraudulent practices.
The New York Times interviewed former students and reviewed documents that showed students were pressed to offer positive reviews of the institution of higher learning. They were instructed to fill out the surveys to receive their graduation certificates, the paper reported, noting that standard practices used to ensure objective answers were outright ignored.
Robert Guillo told the Times that he gave high scores in one evaluation because the teacher pleaded with him to do so. Guillo spent $36,000 on classes at the University and then asked for a refund.
“It’s absolutely a con,” Guillo told the Times. “The role of the evaluations were a defense against any legal actions. They anticipated those actions.”
Former Trump University students sued in 2010, claiming they were duped into paying $35,000 to attend the online school with real estate seminars promising “one-on-one mentorship, practical and fail-safe real estate techniques.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also sued Trump over the university in 2013 for $40 million, claiming it operated as an unlicensed educational institution that conned students into believing they would gain real estate investing expertise.
Daniel M. Petrocelli, a lawyer for Trump, said students who felt pressured were “not representative of what happened across the board.”
“Folks were not coerced,” he told the Times. “It’s completely implausible to suggest that the 10,000 reviews from the students and their guests were the result of pressure or coercion. They gave overwhelmingly positive reviews because they were being honest about their assessment.”
A website called 98percentapproval.com, which was set up to defend the university, published 10,000 students reviews, which includes 3,000 people who did not pay for the class and 2,000 that never completed their courses, according to the Times. [NYT] — Dusica Sue Malesevic