Avoid the Next Trump University: 6 Signs a School Is a Scam
The reviews are damning. Students who enrolled at Trump University, a for-profit profit real estate training program that went out of business in 2010, called the program “an absolute, utter waste,” “extremely deceptive,” and “useless,” according to complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission and published by Gizmodo.
Former Trump University employees — which wasn’t a true university, as it didn’t award degrees — were even more pointed in their criticism. Ronald Schnackenberg, who worked as a sales manager for the school, called it a “fraudulent scheme” that “preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money,” in court testimony related to a lawsuit filed by former students.
Fees for the training program, which promised to teach people how to flip properties and become successful real estate investors, started at $1,495 and ran as high as $34,995. Employees claim they were told to target vulnerable people and encourage students to max out credit cards to pay the tuition. Some instructors apparently had no experience in real estate.
Disgruntled students in California, Florida, and New York are now seeking damages from Trump University. Whether they’ll eventually get some of their money back remains to be seen, but in the meantime, there are some valuable lessons for the rest of us in their story. The people who signed up for classes with Trump University really believed they were going to get something valuable out of the experience, as do most people who decide to pursue some education or training, whether it’s a one-day seminar or a four-year degree. Unfortunately, there are people who are willing to take advantage of your desire to make a better life for yourself. Here are some warning signs that the school or training program you’re considering is actually a scam.
1. The school isn’t accredited
If you’re hoping to earn a degree, make sure the school you’re attending is accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, (CHEA), Tim Willard, a spokesman for CHEA, told U.S. News and World Report. Accreditation ensures the school meets basic standards. If you earn credits from an unaccredited school they may not transfer to other colleges, while employers may view degrees from these schools with skepticism.
2. You don’t have to do any work
According to John Bear, an expert on diploma mills, there are more than 500 schools selling fake degrees online. These schools let you “earn” a degree by forking over cash in exchange for an impressive-sounding piece of paper. They might offer credit for life experience and not require you to take any classes. (While some legitimate schools do offer some credit in exchange for your work experience, you won’t be able to earn your entire degree that way.) “If you’re getting a degree without doing any work, chances are you’re dealing with a diploma mill,” the FTC warned.
3. Pushy sales tactics
Testimony in the Trump University lawsuit revealed that employees were encourage to use high-pressure sales Avoid the Next Trump University: 6 Signs a School Is a Scam: