The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit Wednesday against DeVry University, accusing the for-profit college chain's operators of misleading people about job placement and salary rates of its graduates. Specifically, the FTC took issue with DeVry advertisements claiming 90 percent of its students are employed in their fields within six months of graduation.
The FTC has alleged that some students were falsely labeled as working "in their field" when they were not. For example, the suit cited a business alumnus who ended up as a Cheesecake Factory server, the Huffington Post reported.
Some students weren't counted while they were actively job-hunting or were deceived about their earnings potential, according to the lawsuit. "Millions of Americans look to higher education for training that will lead to meaningful employment and good pay,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a news release. “Educational institutions like DeVry owe prospective students the truth about their graduates’ success finding employment in their field of study and the income they can earn.”
DeVry University has more than 55 physical locations across the United States in addition to online options, according to its website. As of last year, it had about 144,000 students around the world — many of them in Brazil.
The FTC lawsuit was timed Wednesday to coincide with a notice from the Education Department ordering DeVry University to stop "making certain representations regarding its students’ post-graduation employment outcomes" until it can substantiate them. The notice refers to the same 90 percent statistic.
DeVry is part of the embattled for-profit college system, which saw an upswing in enrollment and interest during the Great Recession and has had trouble coping with a White House crackdown ever since. One of the largest chains, Corinthian Colleges, shut down last April after years of restrictions, and others have seen similar investigations.
DeVry, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, published a statement Wednesday afternoon vowing to "vigorously contest" the allegations made by the FTC and the Department of Education.
"DeVry Group believes that the FTC’s complaint — filed 40 years after DeVry University began publishing accurate graduate employment statistics — is without a valid legal basis," it wrote. "DeVry University measures the employment and earnings results of its graduates on a sound, rational and transparent basis and has published these results in a consistent manner over the years to provide students meaningful information."