At the latest GOP presidential debate in Houston, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio attacked frontrunner Donald Trump over his for-profit school that’s been accused of scamming students. But Rubio doesn’t have much ground to stand on when it comes to criticizing for-profit colleges.
So-called Trump University began operating in 2005, though it did not have an actual campus or offer actual degrees. Instead, it sold expensive CDs and DVDs and offered seminars promising students would learn how to make money in real estate. Students of Trump’s “university” are now pursuing a civil lawsuit accusing Trump University of fraud. The trial could begin sometime in May.
At Thursday’s debate, Rubio slammed Trump University for being a “fake school” that only left students with a “cardboard cutout of Donald Trump.”
“There are people that borrowed $36,000 to go to Trump University and they are suing him now,” Rubio said.
Although students paid thousands of dollars for Trump seminars, Rubio’s hands are not clean either, since he has supported a for-profit college chain that has hurt far more students than Trump University has. Corinthian Colleges, which actually offered degrees and was regionally accredited, damaged far more students’ lives.
Although 80,000 people attended Trump University’s free introductory seminars, only 9,200 paid the $1,495 for three-day seminars and as few as 800 people paid thousands of dollars for the university’s mentorship and workshop packages, according to the Washington Post. But as many as 350,000 students who borrowed to attend Corinthian Colleges’ schools could benefit from student loan forgiveness from the federal government for being victims of fraud from the college chain.
Instead of encouraging the government to investigate the for-profit college chain, Rubio asked for leniency in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in the summer of 2014. The letter, which was obtained by Bloomberg Politics, read, in part, “While I commend the Department’s desire to protect our nation’s students from fraudulent and malicious activity by any institution of higher education, regardless of tax status, I believe the Department can and should demonstrate leniency as long as Corinthian Colleges, Inc. continues to expeditiously and earnestly cooperate by providing the documents requested.”
Rubio has also accepted $27,600 in contributions from Corinthian Colleges throughout the past five years, Bloomberg reported. The last donation for $2,700 was filed on April 30 of last year.
Last year, Corinthian Colleges shut down its remaining 28 campuses, leaving 16,000 students without a college, shortly after the Department of Education fined the company $30 million for falsifying job-placement rates. For example, a student whose field of study was accounting was counted as having found a job in her field when in reality she was doing food service at Taco Bell.
In an interview with ThinkProgress last fall, Jessica King, a 33-year-old single mother who attended Everest College and now works as a bartender, said she doesn’t think continuing her education is possible due to over $30,000 in debt she’s still paying off. “At this point, I’d love to be able to go back to school and get a degree and my finish up my hopes and my dreams, but I think Everest robbed me of that but the department of education robbed me of that,” King said.