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When universities fleece their students

It is becoming increasingly difficult for university graduates to find appropriate - and well-paid - employment. As such, many have begun to question the value of obtaining a degree in the first place. Why, after all, should one take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt to acquire workplace skills, if one is ultimately unable to enter the workplace?

The situation is as problematic for schools as it is for students. In recent years, many colleges, universities, and graduate programs have seen a steep drop in applications. Many institutions - the responsible ones - have adjusted with the downturn, buying out teachers and cutting back on the number of students they admit.

Other programs (for-profit universities, most notably) engage in underhanded schemes to keep their enrollment numbers up. Namely, they make unfounded promises about job prospects and potential salaries. One institution in particular - DeVry University, which operates more than a dozen campuses in California - has so grossly misled its students that it now faces legal action.

For-profit universities will take all comers--and make them pay

Earlier this year, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission brought charges against DeVry leadership. Specifically, the FTC is taking issue with a series of advertisements the institution aired on various media, which claimed that 90% of DeVry graduates find employment in their chosen fields, and that they are paid wages 15 percent higher than the average college graduate.

According to the FTC, these claims are "false and unsubstantiated." (An article in the Los Angeles Times notes that a DeVry claimed a business administration graduate was working "in his field" while waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory.) The government is seeking monetary compensation for past and current DeVry students.

Since the FTC filed suit, DeVry and its top brass have faced scrutiny in a variety of related matters. In March, the Veterans Affairs Department reprimanded the school for preying on military personnel. Its Education Group CEO was pushed out of the organization. Likewise, leaders at the University of California-Davis and the University of Arizona have recently come under fire for their associations with DeVry.

Fighting back against DeVry

For its part, DeVry is endeavoring to stand its ground. It has said the FTC's suit is "without valid legal basis." Likewise, it bristled at the military's condemnation, saying the attack was "based on unproven claims still being litigated." It maintains that it measures employment rates and salaries based on a "sound, rational and transparent basis."

Yet it seems clear that students do not, as a rule, graduate from DeVry with the professional prospects they may have been led to expect. Would that they find some way, through the courts or through grit, to reclaim their futures.

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