Trump University

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Generally

  • 2004: Donald Trump registered a trademark for “Trump University.” “Billionaire Donald Trump figures there's still money to be made--by teaching other people how to make money. The Donald has applied for a trademark for the name Trump University, thesmokinggun.com reports. The application states that Trump is interested in providing ‘educational services in the nature of conducting on-line courses in the fields of business and real estate.’” (Chicago Tribune, August 27, 2004)
  • May, 2005: Trump announced the official launch of Trump University, claiming it would offer various online courses at a rate of $300 per course. “Donald Trump announced his latest venture Monday in New York--Trump University--which will consist of online courses, CD-ROMS, consulting services and seminars. The for-profit university will not offer degrees or grades. One- to two-week courses will cost $300.” (Chicago Tribune, May 24, 2005)
  • 2005: Before he was active on Twitter, Trump used to post his opinions about politics and current events on a blog maintained by Trump University’s website. “It is impossible to read Donald Trump's blog without hearing his voice and picturing him typing away in his Turnbull & Asser pajamas, sleep still in his eyes. Otherwise, ‘The Trump Blog’ seems a lot like most other blogs. Which is to say, lightweight and highly egocentric. The Trump Blog is featured on the Web site for Trump University (trumpuniversity.com), which is basically a series of seminars on how to get rich. Mr. Trump and ‘his circle of experts’ run the blog, though The Donald himself ducks in only occasionally. […]On those occasions when he's not talking about himself, Mr. Trump takes on political and economic issues. He doesn't go too deep, though. After all, he's a busy man.” (New York Times, September 3, 2005)
  • September, 2005: The first video lecture by Donald Trump was posted to the Trump University website. “The work of a billionaire is never done. Besides hosting the fourth round of ‘The Apprentice,’ […] He also delivered his first online lecture about dealmaking Tuesday on the Trump University Web site. More than 2,000 students paid $249 apiece to learn that he prefers real estate over stock, according to The Associated Press.” (Chicago Tribune, September 16, 2005)
  • 2006: A columnist at the Boston Globe reported receiving unsolicited invitations to enroll on the Trump University website. “In early May, I received an unsolicited invitation to join Trump University, which sounds like the kind of institution you might find parodied on the comics page. This wasn't like the letters my sons received when they were in high school, inviting them to apply to universities. This was an acceptance letter, a ‘personal invite’ from Donald Trump, contingent on my coughing up $40. Which I did.” (Boston Globe, July 24, 2006)
    • Enrolling at Trump University prompted a deluge of spam and telemarketing calls seeking to “upsell” the students to more expensive products and courses. “Another ‘benefit’ of matriculating at Trump U is receiving a near-constant stream of e-mails and occasional phone calls from TU staffers trying to sell you more courses. Shortly after I enrolled, TU president Michael Sexton invited me ‘to purchase a remarkable audio/video course available exclusively from Trump University. For the first time ever, Donald Trump has created a complete eight-week course on how to get rich.’ I continue to receive invitations to enroll at TU, even though I am already a student. A slip-up at the dean's office, I guess.” (Boston Globe, July 24, 2006)
    • Trump University's website featured a mish-mash of offerings, including Trump's musings about Britney Spears' career trajectory and promotions for Trump's various business books. “Here's what you get for the initial buy-in at TU: video Trumptalks on subjects like ‘Dealing With Failure,’ ‘Creating a Great Brand,’ ‘Career Advice’" and ‘Salesmanship.’ […] You also receive a subscription to ‘Inside the Trump Tower,’ a newsletter chock full of windy little essays. […] All over the website because that's all TU is, a website (www.trumpuniversity.com) chairman Trump rattles on about the value of extramural ‘education’ like TU. […] Inevitably, he blogs: ‘Britney [Spears] has seen better days. She performed four or five years ago at the Trump Taj Mahal and she was great. Now it seems as if everything's slipping away from her. Britney, don't let that happen. Don't let it slip away. Keep your head on straight.’ […] And, of course, Trump's favorite subject is ... Trump. In one of his homilies, he celebrates the Top Ten Books on Entrepreneurship. The first six books were authored by, yes, Donald Trump.” (Boston Globe, July 24, 2006)

Federal Support

Trump apparently paid some kind of fee to have Trump University promoted on the Small Business Administration’s website through its Co-Sponsorship Authority from Section 4(H) of the Small Business Act.

Examples:

https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/oig_spring2007sar5-31-07no-sig.pdf

https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/Small%20Business%20Act_0.pdf

  • 2007: The Small Business Administration began offering online tutorials branded by Trump Unviersity. “Trump University, whose chairman is high-profile entrepreneur Donald Trump, has teamed with the Small Business Administration to offer a free online training course, How to Start a Business on a Shoestring Budget. The self-paced program is at www.sba.gov under the services menu. It takes aspiring entrepreneurs through eight areas of a business start-up including market research, budget branding and what to do when you outgrow your bootstraps. The Donald doesn't make an appearance, but you'll meet four fictional entrepreneurs who will ask for your opinion on the decisions they have to make. You'll get feedback on your answers that will help you craft your own low-cost launch. There also are four video clips of SBA experts talking about how to get your ideas to market with limited resources. The course requires you to register with the Trump University website.” (Los Angeles Times, July 18, 2007)

Affiliated Persons

  • Roger Schank, a retired professor from Northwestern University, designed the original curriculum for Trump University. “For $300 a course, students who register at www.trumpuniversity.com will receive six to eight hours of online instruction in marketing, real estate or entrepreneurship. The university, whose courses are being designed by retired Northwestern University professor Roger Schank, will grant no degrees, and student work will not be graded. […] Aimed at business professionals who want to develop their skills, Trump University features a faculty of experts who have taught at the business schools of Columbia University and Dartmouth College, and Schank, the retired Northwestern professor, is an advocate of the ‘learning by doing’ method of education, which he says Trump University's online courses will emphasize.” (Chicago Tribune, May 24, 2005)
  • Other initially announced faculty members included John Vogel, Jack Kaplan and Don Sexton. “Real estate mogul/reality TV star Donald Trump has created an online business school called, all kidding aside, Trump University. […] The for-profit school, announced yesterday at a news conference, will consist of online courses, CD-ROMs, seminars and consulting services. It will not offer degrees or traditional grades. Among the faculty: John Vogel of Dartmouth University and Columbia University's Jack Kaplan and Don Sexton. No word on what position, if any, the Donald will hold, though he said he would teach some courses.” (Washington Post, May 24, 2005)
  • Trump reportedly offered the presidency of Trump University to one of his leading critics, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, who refused the job. “One of Trump's loudest critics has been Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, president of The Chief Executive Leadership Institute at Yale, who was dumbfounded when Trump offered him the job as Trump U. president and later as board member. Sonnenfeld declined, but he predicted that Trump U. will be a commercial success and will deliver because Trump's reputation is at stake.” (USA Today, May 24, 2005)

Roger Schank

John Vogel

Jack Kaplan

Don Sexton

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld

Network of Fraudsters

  • Trump gave promotional copy to Stephen Murphy, the promoter of a real estate investment book who was later indicted for securities fraud. “Promoter Stephen Murphy, 44, runs something called American Capital Investments, of Marina Del Rey, Calif. He claims to have made a fortune buying foreclosed commercial real estate properties and, last year, decided to tell his secrets in a series of how-to books. His latest title: Formerly One Up On Trump: How you too make millions in Uncle Sam's $400 billion real estate firesale! The volume costs $12. Murphy says the price is a tax-deductible charitable contribution to American Captial Foundation for the Homeless, which publishes the book and is run by Murphy. ‘I really admire Steve Murphy,’ gushes New York developer Donald Trump on the book's duty jacket. ‘Steve commands some very wise, intelligent negotiating skills and unique purchasing strategies.’ Trump probably now wishes he'd declined the endorsement request. On Aug. 31 the Securities & Exchange Commission charged Murphy with securities fraud and froze his assets.” (Forbes, October 18, 1993)
    • According to federal law enforcement agents, Murphy would target purchasers of his book for real estate scams. "According to the SEC, one of Murphy's secrets was to call people who bought his books and offer them an interest in one of the distressed properties that his company was buying. Encouraged by the promise of returns between 25% and 135% on their investments, some 180 suckers ponied up more than $14.5 million over the course of a year. Only $5 million of the suckers' money was used to buy property. Some of the money went to promoting Murphy's three books; some more went to covering sales commissions; around $700,000 went to Murphy himself. […] What does Donald Trump now think of the fellow he effusively promoted? He didn't return calls.” (Forbes, October 18, 1993)