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What in the World Is Trump University?

Donald Trump speaking at a real university, Iowa State University. (Alex Hanson/Wikimedia)

Another scandal has hit Donald Trump.

This time, it's a crazy situation with a university Trump is behind. Wait, wait, hold up? Donald Trump ran a university? Yes, and some former students and employees claim it was a corrupt and misleading operation.

Here's the deal.

What was Trump U?

trump university welcome

Trump University was a for-profit university Donald Trump was behind.

According to its mission statement, it focused on business, real estate, and "success":

"Our mission is to teach you success. The best courses and programs + an impressive list of been-there, done-that faculty = a really powerful resource for business education and professional development. Some educational resources have great content. Some have a smart and eclectic community of members. Some offer educational experiences you can immediately apply to the real world and yield results. We combine all three: Smart content. A thriving community. A learn by doing approach."

And that's not all. The mission statement also expounds on its "real-world" philosophy:

"Business people demand education they can apply to the real world, today. We teach real-world education differently than traditional educational institutes do. We believe people absorb more efficiently and faster when they learn by doing. What we're proudest of: Giving people the knowledge they need to succeed."

Trump himself said "Trump University is about knowledge. It's about a lot of different things."

When was Trump U founded?

Trump University started in 2005. In 2010 it went out of business and changed its name to the Trump Entrepreneurial Institute--or Trump Initiative. Or both.

The Initiative was a revamp of Trump's educational institution, refocused not just for business people overall, but for entrepreneurs:

"There is a wealth of opportunities now available to entrepreneurs because of the economic challenges we have all faced over the last few years. In response to your growing need for world-class training to capitalize on these opportunities, we have dramatically increased our commitment to provide YOU – the next generation of entrepreneurs, business builders, and investors - with the hands-on experience and real world skills needed to succeed."

The Trump Entrepreneurial Institute/Trump Initiative claimed to have high ratings from students:

"We have worked hard to earn your trust and take great pride in our exceptional 98% Student Satisfaction Rating. [...] Don't just be an entrepreneur -- Be a Trump Entrepreneur!"

But that's not true. While it was still operating as Trump University, it had a D- rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Does this still exist?

Not exactly, in the sense that you can't enroll anymore. But the Trump Initiative website still goes directly to a log-in page.

How did Trump U work?

The whole premise of Trump University was to help students replicate Trump's recipe for success by offering the "finest quality" education. A Trump U blog post with Trump's own byline goes on about "quality":

"I've worked hard to make sure the Trump name is found only on buildings of the highest caliber and products of the finest quality. I won't even consider giving my approval to anything unless I know it's the top of the line because when people see or hear 'Trump,' they expect the best. That's just basic marketing and good business."

Trump U students could taking courses about business, taxes, marketing, branding, real estate, entrepreneurship, and the like, all so they could become the next Trump.

Trump kept up the "replicate my success" mantra through advertising the university as chairman. This was on the Trump U website in 2006:

"At the end of the day it is your success that defines our success."

BTW, if this appeals to you, you're in luck--you can go to Amazon and buy the Wealth Builder's Blueprint for $159.99, as well as the Trump University textbook.

Why is Trump U being called a scam?

There are serious allegations that Trump University was barely anything more than a pyramid scheme with the entire purpose of separating gullible people from their money.

Apparently it consisted of several costly tiers and academic steps.

First, it was a free introductory seminar. Then, $1,495 for the next step. Students would have to decide among several levels of courses after the second course.

Former students said they were misled into a costly scheme where they lost a lot of money. They were even encouraged to max out their credit cards to pay for Trump U courses.

This so-called university is among many unaccredited institutions, some of which have been accused of scammy practices too.

Students claim they were led to believe Trump had chosen them and were going to work with them, but he didn't.

Why is it a story now?

A few weeks ago, a Trump U fraud case went to court. The woman who sued in the first place says she spent $60,000 on Trump U.

Yesterday, the judge in the case ordered the testimonies from employees be released publicly. And some harsh things were said.

Plus, the Trump University "playbook" was released by court order. It described the organization's strategy on how to market to potential paying students.

What does Trump himself say about Trump U?

He's pointing fingers at the judge, calling him "Mexican," "biased," and a "hater."

Who is Judge Gonzalo Curiel? He was born in Indiana. He once prosecuted a notorious drug cartel in Tijuana, Mexico, and was apparently targeted for assassination because of it. He was in fact nominated to the federal bench by President Obama and was confirmed by the Senate in 2012.

How does this reflect on Trump as a presidential candidate?

What's on everyone's minds as these revelations stream out: The Republican nominee for president seems to have run a fraudulent university.

What are people saying about this whole situation?

What do you think?

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What in the World Is Trump University?

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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