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Federal regulators crackdown on DeVry University's advertising

Regulators call advertising 'deceptive, misleading'

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MIRAMAR, Fla. – The Federal Trade Commission claims DeVry University has been lying to potential students when it bragged about how much money students could make after graduating and how many graduates landed jobs in their chosen career field.

DeVry has three locations in Florida, including one in Miramar.

In the recently filed lawsuit, regulators claim that, "Through the use of English and Spanish-language advertisements and other marketing materials, and during sales pitches with prospective students, Defendants have made deceptive representations about the benefits of obtaining a degree from DVU."

The FTC said that the advertisements, which ran on television, online, radio and print media, also made false or misleading claims that a DeVry degree will help you land a well-paying job in your chosen field.

The complaint claims that DeVry counted numerous graduates as working "in their field" when they were not, and included graduates who were working in jobs they held prior to enrolling at DeVry into their calculations, instead of those they landed after graduating.

Regulators cite specific DeVry advertising claims, including one that read, "90% of our grads actively seeking employment had careers in 6 months."

Regulators found the statements cited in the suit to be "false or misleading," or not substantiated at the time the representation was made.

"Millions of Americans look to higher education for training that will lead to meaningful employment and good pay," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said. "Educational institutions like DeVry owe prospective students the truth about their graduates' success finding employment in their field of study and the income they can earn."

According to the complaint, comparing income information that the university obtained directly from its graduates with publicly available income data showed that DVU graduates did not in fact earn significantly more than graduates from all other schools combined a year after graduating.

The U.S. Department of Education is also taking action, filing a notice Wednesday to begin the process to stop DeVry from making certain representations about post-graduation employment outcomes in its advertising.

"The specific representation that forms the basis of this action was highlighted in DeVry's We Major in Careers campaign, a 2008 'career-focused brand marketing campaign' that sought to position DeVry as an institution that helped its graduates achieve career success. That campaign, which reflected more than a year's worth of in-depth consumer, marketplace, and brand research by DeVry, represented a conscious decision by DeVry to make certain representations to students and prospective students for marketing and recruitment purposes,” wrote Susan D. Crim, director of Administrative Actions & Appeals Service Group to DeVry University President Robert Paul. "Yet with respect to certain representations that were made by DeVry as part of that campaign and which continued to be made until at least August 2015, DeVry is unable to substantiate the truthfulness of those representations, as is required by federal law."

The notice will, upon its effective date, require DeVry to:

  • cease making such representations without possessing student-specific information that substantiates the representations;
  • retain an independent auditor to verify, before publication, any representations DeVry makes regarding the post-graduation employment outcomes of its students;
  • contact third parties who are repeating the representation (e.g., websites such as Degreesmatch.com and Scholarshipguidance.com) to direct that they remove from their sites the unsubstantiated representations;
  • retain records used to develop and substantiate certain advertisements;
  • inform students and prospective students regarding its unsubstantiated 90 percent statistic; and
  • notify ED of any additional legal claims, investigations, subpoenas, or other inquiries regarding its post-graduation employment representations.

"As required by the law and expected by the public, institutions need to be accurate in their marketing and recruiting to prospective students. And we confirm this truthfulness of advertisements through the backup information schools provide upon request," said under secretary of education Ted Mitchell. "The Department and the FTC's related announcements today are the result of much collaboration and cooperation. We are grateful to our partners at the FTC for their hard work and dedication on this matter."

DeVry University released a statement Wednesday after they were contacted by Vazquez, which said that the FTC lawsuit is "without a valid legal basis."

"DeVry Education Group intends to vigorously contest a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), challenging the employment and earnings outcomes of DeVry University graduates," the statement said in part. "DeVry Group also learned today that the Department of Education ("the Department") has taken an administrative action related more narrowly to certain DeVry University records for the period 1975 to 1983. We intend to request a hearing on the Department’s decision, and will collaborate closely with the Department to demonstrate our compliance and resolve this matter satisfactorily."