It seems as if DeVry University’s Pinocchio nose just grew a little bit longer. The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and the Department of Education filed a complaint against the for-profit university controlled by DeVry Education Group Inc. for allegedly posting misleading advertisements on YouTube and Twitter.
In a society where simply having a college degree no longer means automatic employment upon graduation, more pressure is being put on colleges and universities to promote the success rate of their graduates. Choosing the right school to go to now not only depends on how the student believes he or she will fit in with the school’s environment, but also how the school will help the student find employment after graduation. The pressure has become even more heightened with the recent declines in admissions to other for-profit institutions around the country.
According to the lawsuit, FTC v. DeVry Education Group, the FTC and Department of Education is accusing DeVry University of using deceptive claims of post-graduation employment opportunities as part of how it recruited future students to attend the school. The goal of the lawsuit is to stop DeVry from making the statements that are allegedly misleading.
“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.”
The FTC is claiming that statements made by DeVry in its materials for marketing and recruiting are false. Specifically claiming DeVry’s advertisement on its own YouTube LLC channel with misleading videos stating that 90 percent of its graduates actively seeking employment were able to get jobs in their field of study within six months of graduation is misleading. This statistic specifically has been used in marketing for new recruits since at least 2008. It was even written in a Tweet from the DeVry Education Group’s own Twitter account.
In addition, the FTC is arguing that another one of DeVry’s recruiting facts about their graduates earning an average of 15 percent higher incomes a year after graduation compared to other graduates of all the other universities is also false. DeVry has been claiming this since 2013.
Both of those claims had been used on radio, television, online and other advertisements across different media platforms. The complaint alleges that in calculating the number of graduates who were working “in the field,” the university used statistics from graduates working at restaurants, working as volunteers, as a mail carrier and another delivering rain gutters for a construction company. It also states that DeVry used employment data from students who had been working prior to enrolling as a factor into the statistics about post-graduation employment.
The FTC filed the complaint in the Central District of California for allegedly violating Section 5(a) of the FTC Act, 15 U.S.C. §45(a). It asked for monetary remedies, which include restitution and refunds, for possibly up to 50,000 students who had enrolled at the university since 2008. There are more than 55 DeVry University campuses located in the country, along with online classes. The University has an annual student enrollment that ranges from 29,000 to 49,000.
“As required by the law and expected by the public, institutions need to be accurate in their marketing and recruiting to prospective students,” Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said. “And we confirm this truthfulness of advertisements through the backup information schools provide upon request.”
However, DeVry denied the allegations and “intends to vigorously contest” the complaint. “DeVry University measures the employment and income of its graduates on a sound, rational and transparent basis, and has published these results in a consistent manner over the years,” the company said.