GOP frontrunner Donald Trump might have to take a break from the campaign trail to deal with a civil case alleging that Trump University committed fraud against its students. The case may require Donald Trump’s presence as a witness this spring, though a trial date has not yet been scheduled, Yahoo Politics first reported.
If the trial happens in May, it could gum up Trump’s schedule, Yahoo explained — that’s the same month that primaries are held in Nebraska, West Virginia, Oregon, Washington, and there are many important primary dates in early June.
The “university,” which first began operating in 2005 and no longer exists, was not accredited and did not have a campus. It also did not give students degrees. Instead, students went to the website and bought expensive CDs and DVDs; some of them paid as much as $35,000 for their Trump University education.
There are 72 witnesses on both sides of the case concerning Trump University, which has been going on for five years. Trump’s lawyers have denied charges that Trump University defrauded students. Lawyers also argued the plaintiffs can’t successfully claim that the online classes didn’t have value, according to the Financial Times.
But students aren’t the only ones to question Trump University’s tactics. In 2010, the New York State Department of Education sent a letter to Trump University asking it to stop using the word “university,” leading it to change the name to “Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also sued the company for false claims about its classes and the case is still pending.
Trump’s for-profit virtual college is a particularly relevant topic of discussion right now, as for-profit colleges struggle to continue operations and face oversight from the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Justice Department. The mid-aughts, when Trump University began, represented a different time for for-profit colleges — long before their enrollment numbers declined, the industry’s unsavory practices were exposed, and former for-profit college students and graduates began claiming they’ve been defrauded by the colleges through misleading recruitment practices and inaccurate information about job placement rates. Last spring, Corinthian Colleges closed its remaining campuses and EDMC announced the gradual closure of 15 of 52 campuses of the Art Institutes. DeVry University and Kaplan College have also closed or sold campuses recently.
Despite the bad press surrounding for-profit colleges, Republican candidates for president have embraced the for-profit college industry. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (R), for example, wrote to a letter to the U.S. Department of Education, asking the department to “demonstrate leniency” in its investigation in 2014.
Trump hasn’t waded into the subject on the campaign trail and has been more vocal on other education subjects such as Common Core state standards, which he opposes, and the U.S. Department of Education, which he intends to cut heavily. The real estate mogul said in his Nevada caucus victory speech on Tuesday that he loves the “poorly educated.” If Trump advocates cutting the Department of Education and discourages oversight of for-profit colleges as president, perhaps there will be more poorly educated voters to love.