Nearly $ 50 million is being sent to former University of Phoenix students following a settlement over charges that the school engaged in deceptive advertising, the Federal Trade Commission said on Wednesday .
The payment is part of a record-breaking $ 191 million settlement, reached in late 2019, over accusations the school ran ads falsely claiming it had relationships with companies like AT&T, Yahoo !, Microsoft and Twitter, the FTC said.
The advertisements claimed that the University of Phoenix could leverage its relationships with these large companies to create employment opportunities, shaping the curriculum so that students are best suited for such jobs. But the school did not have such a relationship, the FTC said.
“This is the most significant settlement the Commission has achieved in a case against a for-profit school,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Office of Consumer Protection. that do not exist. ”
A University of Phoenix advertisement showed a woman trying to find a parking space in a full lot.
“Like many things, trying to find a better job can be frustrating. So, at the University of Phoenix, we’re working with a growing list of nearly 2,000 partner companies – companies like Microsoft, the American Red Cross, and Adobe to create options for you, ”said a voiceover.
Cars in various spaces lift up to display the company’s logos, as well as those of Avis, Twitter, MGM Resorts, AT&T and Microsoft.
“Not only that, we’re using what we’ve learned from these partners to shape our program so that when you find the job you want, you’re the perfect fit,” the ad continued.
The FTC alleged that UOP and its parent company, Apollo Education Group, were specifically targeting prospective Hispanic and military students. Apollo Education Group was the largest recipient of the benefits of the GI Bill after 9/11, which pays tuition and fees on behalf of veterans or their dependents, according to the FTC.
In a statement to NBC News, a spokesperson for the University of Phoenix said the FTC allegations were about “a campaign that ended in 2014 that was not tested by litigation and does not constitute not factual findings neither by the FTC nor by any court ”.
“The University has not admitted any wrongdoing and continues to believe it acted appropriately,” the statement said. “This settlement agreement has allowed us to continue to focus on our core mission of improving the lives of our students through graduate education relevant to their careers, and to avoid any other student-serving distractions that may have resulted. protracted litigation.
In addition to the nearly $ 50 million in direct payments to more than 147,000 students, the $ 191 million settlement includes $ 141 million to write off unpaid balances owed directly to the school by eligible students.
For the $ 50 million, the FTC sends 146,804 checks and issues 677 PayPal payments to students who: enrolled in UOP between October 15, 2012 and December 31, 2016; paid more than $ 5,000 in cash, grants, federal and private student loans, or military benefits; did not obtain debt cancellation as part of the settlement; and did not choose to refuse UOP to provide the student’s contact information to the FTC.