The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

May 16, 2014

JUST IN: AU, Bridgepoint issue statement on settlement


Clinton Herald

CLINTON — A statement from Ashford University regarding the recent $7.25 million settlement with the Iowa Department of Justice:

"On May 15, 2014, Bridgepoint Education and Ashford University entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) with the Iowa Attorney General. The agreement provides full resolution of the Iowa Attorney General’s allegations and Civil Investigative Demand, and resolves the State of Iowa’s concerns regarding Bridgepoint’s and Ashford’s compliance with the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act, particularly with respect to Ashford’s recruitment and enrollment practices.

"Bridgepoint Education and Ashford University expressly deny wrongdoing or liability of any kind, and have agreed to enter into this Assurance solely for the purpose of settlement and to resolve all issues raised regarding the Attorney General’s inquiry. Specifically, Ashford denies ever using 'unfair or high-pressure sales tactics, including emotionally-charged appeals to persuade prospective students to make uninformed decisions to enroll” or ever 'making false or misleading statements to prospective students in order to convince them to enroll.' Furthermore, for the past four years, Ashford student satisfaction surveys have shown that 93 percent of those students surveyed would recommend Ashford University to a friend or family member.

"The AVC, in which neither Bridgepoint nor Ashford admit any liability, contains several components including injunctive relief, nonmonetary remedies, and a payment of $7.25 million to the Iowa Attorney General to be used for restitution, costs, and fees. The AVC also provides for the appointment of a settlement administrator who, for a period of three years, will review Bridgepoint’s and Ashford’s compliance with the AVC terms. Bridgepoint and Ashford welcome the appointment of a settlement administrator and look forward to demonstrating the University’s high quality admissions practices.

"In addition, since 2012, the Ashford Promise has provided students with the assurance they will incur no debt should they leave within their first three weeks. Moreover, student debt incurred at Ashford University is below the national average due to the University’s affordable tuition.

" 'Clearly, Ashford is and always has been committed to student success,' said Dr. Richard Pattenaude, President of Ashford University. “Ashford University is proud of its high quality, affordable education and will continue to remain dedicated to long term student outcomes.'

"Related to this matter, Bridgepoint accrued $9 million in December 2013, split between both current and long-term liabilities. This continues to represent Bridgepoint’s best estimate of the restitution, cost of non-monetary remedies, and future AVC-related legal costs."