University of Phoenix pays $ 190 million settlement
Many students will have their student debt canceled.
PHOENIX, Arizona – Note: This is an updated version of our original story that was posted on 9/25/2020 regarding loan cancellation. Federal and private loans taken out by students are not included in the FTC regulations.
With so many students now taking their courses remotely, many are turning to schools whose “focus” is online learning. But a number of these universities have been targeted by lawmakers accused of misleading students, including one of the largest, the University of Phoenix.
The university recently settled a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission over advertisements touting the school’s relationships with nearly 2,000 companies, which allegedly offered students opportunities to find employment. That’s why the University of Phoenix was the perfect fit for Mark Bolaney. He would have access to large companies while learning online, a must since he is confined to the home.
“I was in a convalescent home,” Bolaney told 3News. “I had to relearn to walk after undergoing thirteen surgeries on my right leg and 11 surgeries to save my left leg.”
But that schooling had a bonus: After being encouraged by counselors to get three degrees in order to earn more money, he says all he ended up with was $ 180,000 in student debt.
“For my bachelor’s degree, they told me not to accept less than $ 35 an hour,” he recalls. “My masters, they told me not to accept less than $ 65 an hour. And they said that for my doctorate, you are not going to want to accept anything less than $ 100 an hour. hour.”
Bolaney says he sent nearly 200 resumes for jobs following his programs through the online school, including 17 positions at the university. However, he claims that they told him he was not qualified.
It was a similar story for Christina Baez, who says she went bankrupt after sinking $ 60,000 into the school.
“It could be a home payment or a down payment on a house,” Baez said in an interview.
It’s stories like these that have led the university to be the subject of multiple lawsuits over the years, including one by a former recruiter who claims the school forged loan documents for people. who were not eligible for assistance.
“We were trained to say, ‘Hey, this is government money. It’s free money. Bring them in. Make the sale, ”said Arthur Green.
More recently, the Federal Trade Commission got a $ 190,996,806 million settlement from the school, claiming it deceived students with these ads, although the school did not admit doing anything wrong.
“They were implying that they had these connections in order to get jobs for their students and that they had those connections as part of the development of the program offered by the school, and we alleged that was not true. “FTC spokesperson Jon Steiger told us.
So what does this mean for students? Well, the school has to pay $ 50 million which will go to the students aggrieved by the ads.
It is also writing off $ 141 million in debt owed to the University by students who first registered when these announcements ran. Although the regulations do not affect loans taken out by students through federal or private companies.
Unfortunately, Bolaney will not see any of this money. His loans were from a private company, so he’s still drowning in school debt.
“How can I find six years of my youth?” he asked, “I’m 52 now. Where am I going? Early retirement?”
The University of Phoenix issued the following statement:
“After fully cooperating with the 5-year FTC investigation, the University resolved the issue to maintain the focus on improving the lives of students through higher education relevant to their career, and to avoid any other distraction that may have resulted from a prolonged litigation, not because we think we have done something wrong. This marketing campaign ran from late 2012 to early 2014, took place under prior ownership, and ended before the FTC investigation began. The University continues to believe that it has acted appropriately and we have tried on several occasions to contact Mr. Bolaney to resolve the portion of his debt that he owes directly to the University of Phoenix. We hope we can help him in this matter. “