DeVry University Accused Of Deceptive Advertising & Misleading Students On Job Prospects

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.14.34 PMFederal regulators continued a crackdown on allegedly unscrupulous for-profit college companies Wednesday, filing a lawsuit against DeVry University. The popular chain of schools stands accused of deceiving prospective students about their employment potential after graduation. 

The Federal Trade Commission lawsuit [PDF] seeks to return millions of dollars to thousands of students who were, according to the complaint, misled by DeVry’s advertisements and marketing about the high likelihood of students finding gainful employment in their fields of study and the potential for earning more than students from other programs.

Beginning in 2008, DeVry claimed that 90% of its graduates actively seeking employment landed jobs within their field within six months of graduation was deceptive.

“In some instances when Defendants make this representation, they claim this statistic applies to [DeVry] graduates from a recent year, while in other instances, [the ads] claim this statistic applies to all graduates since 1975, or ‘for more than 30 years,'” the complaint states.

The FTC alleges that DeVry’s marketing became even more irresponsible in 2013. That’s when the school began claiming that DeVry students earned 15% more after one year graduating than students at all other colleges and universities.

These claims, along with others, appeared in DeVry’s television, radio, online, print, and other media advertisements.

For example, a television ad that ran nationally showed people in business attire hanging hundreds of “offer letters” on a wall, with a voiceover discussing the importance of getting a job offer to college students. The voiceover said all of the offer letters seen came from just the last year – followed by the 90% claim.

Another TV ad showed a student saying, “And when I finish my degree in business, a new job at a great company – that’s the graduation present I want.” This was once again followed by the claim that 90% of students landed a job within six months of graduation.

The FTC alleges that DeVry was able to “support” these claims by counting numerous graduates as working in their field when they were not.

For example, the FTC claims, in 2012 the school counted graduates as employed in their majors when in reality they held volunteer positions, or worked in unrelated fields such as a car salesman, and as delivery drivers.

The company also allegedly included in placement calculations positions in which graduates were working prior to enrolling at DeVry, as opposed to those they landed after graduating.

According to the complaint, DeVry also excluded graduates from its count of those “seeking employment” as inactive when they were actively seeking jobs. For example, a graduate was counted as inactive despite having viewed more than 175 job openings in DeVry’s database, interviewing for six positions in the two months prior to being classified as inactive, and repeatedly emailing the school’s career services department.

The FTC alleges that DeVry knew these claims were false, and that comparing income information that the school obtained directly from its graduates with publicly available income data showed that graduates did not in fact earn significantly more than graduates from all other schools combined a year after graduating.

In a separate, but related action against DeVry on Wednesday, the Department of Education provided notice to the school that it would be required to stop certain advertisements regarding post-graduation employment outcomes and take additional steps to ensure the school can substantiate employment claims.

“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.”