CLINTON — Ashford University and parent company Bridgepoint Education Inc. have agreed to pay a $7.25 million settlement and make recruitment and enrollment changes, announced today by the Iowa Department of Justice.
State Attorney General Tom Miller has alleged the for-profit institution violated Iowa's Consumer Fraud Act, which resulted in a three-year investigation.
The settlement is called an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance. Ashford, which has a campus in Clinton, and Bridgepoint denied wrongdoing but will pay the settlement.
Most of the money — $7 million worth — will be used to reimburse Iowa online students who qualify. The DOJ has not determined how many students will receive some level of reimbursement.
The investigation was prompted after complaints by current and former Ashford students, alleging the school's conduct resulted in students “not completing their educational programs, not obtaining professional licenses, and being saddled with substantial student loan debt.”
“Our investigation found what we allege was troubling conduct by Ashford recruiters, including misleading prospective students to encourage them to sign on the dotted line,” Miller said through a press release. “Unfortunately, for many Ashford students, they didn't get the degree they hoped for or the job they were led to believe they'd get after graduating. What they did end up with was a crushing amount of student loan debt.”
Miller delivered a press conference to media this morning. Full audio is available at ClintonHerald.com (http://www.clintonherald.com/archive/x1760070691/AUDIO-Attorney-General-Tom-Millers-Press-Conference-on-the-AU-settlement).
Through the settlement, Ashford will appoint an independent settlement administrator who will oversee compliance for three years. The administrator also will give annual reports to the state.
Ashford is also prohibited from:
• Using coercive tactics to persuade students to enroll or remain enrolled