Ashford University cheated on students online, CA judge finds

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said Ashford University

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said Ashford University “made false promises to students” about their school.

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A for-profit online university tricked students into enrolling, a California judge has ruled.

Now the California attorney general wants the government to forgive those students’ federal debt.

A San Diego Superior Court judge has found that Ashford University gave students false information about career outcomes, costs, financial aid, transfer credits and program pacing.

In March 2022, Judge Eddie C. Sturgeon fined the school and its parent company, Zovio, over $22 million.

“The Court finds that the defendants operated a high-pressure admissions service where the primary goal was enrollment numbers rather than truthful advice,” Sturgeon wrote in Friday’s decision.

Ashford was purchased by the University of Arizona in 2020 to become the University of Arizona’s Global Campus. Zovio, formerly Bridgepoint Education, agreed to pay debts incurred by Ashford before its sale in December 2020. The California attorney general sued Ashford and Zovio in 2017.

The lawsuit is one of several California has filed on student rights, for-profit colleges and debt issues.

In January, the California attorney general and dozens of other attorneys general announced a settlement with student loan giant Navient over allegations of misconduct in its lending practices. As a result, Navient will forgive $1.7 billion in private loan debt for select borrowers and provide $95 million in restitution to borrowers across the country.

Navient’s chief legal officer denied any wrongdoing on behalf of the company; General Counsel Mark Heleen said the decision to settle was made to avoid burdens of additional time and cost.

About $11.5 million of direct restitution and $261 million of private debt forgiveness is going to Californians, according to the California attorney general’s office.

In December, California Attorney General Rob Bonta said the state had resolved a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education over pledging to fix loan forgiveness programs for working people. in non-profit organizations and government entities.

Other lawsuits California is a part of against the U.S. Department of Education continue, including one over the Trump administration’s replacement of 2016 ‘defense of borrowers’ regulations and efforts to facilitate oversight. for-profit colleges.

The state is still suing the US Department of Education for failing to provide debt relief to students who attended Corinthian Colleges, a now-defunct for-profit college conglomerate. The California Attorney General’s Office and the US Department of Education found that Corinthian’s Heald College, Everest Institute and WyoTech were misrepresenting placement rates.

After the San Diego judge ruled in the case against Ashford, Bonta said the for-profit university “made false promises to students about the value of an Ashford degree, leaving students with a growing debt, broken promises and looking for a job”.

Bonta called on the US Department of Education to “quickly” relieve Ashford students of federal student loan debt based on the court ruling.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment. A representative for Novio did not respond to a request for comment.

“We won this battle, but the larger fight continues,” Bonta said.

This story was originally published March 8, 2022 1:16 p.m.

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Gillian Brassil is the congressional reporter for McClatchy’s California Publications. She covers federal policies, people, and issues impacting the Golden State from Capitol Hill. She graduated from Stanford University.

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