The San Diego Superior Court found that Ashford University and it’s parent company must pay over $22 million in penalties for misleading statements to persuade students to enroll.
According to a press release issued by Attorney General Rob Bonta, the online, for-profit school, and its parent company Zovio, Inc. violated the law by giving students false or misleading information about career outcomes, cost, and financial aid, the pace of degree programs, and transfer credits.
The court ordered Ashford University and Zovio to pay more than $22,375,282 million in penalties, a ruling stemming from a 2017 lawsuit filed by the state of California.
The judge also wrote that students were falsely promised that Ashford degrees could be used to secure jobs in various fields, that the school misrepresented how much financial aid they would receive, and downplayed the student loan debt they would incur.
According to court documents, Ashford University and its parent company operated a high-pressure admissions department where the primary focus was enrollment numbers rather than truthful advising.
“In this environment, admissions counselors would cross a "gray line" ethically or "do things they wouldn't normally do" to boost their numbers to keep their jobs,” the decision reads.
“Today’s decision is a win for the many Californians whose college dreams turned into nightmares after they enrolled in Ashford University,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Ashford made false promises to students about the value of an Ashford degree, leaving students with mounting debt, broken promises, and searching for a job. While we can't turn back the clock for these students, this decision should send a strong message: If you engage in deceptive practices in order to pad your bottom line, my office will hold you accountable. We've won this battle, but the broader fight continues.”
According to Bonta, the filing provides a “strong basis” for the Department of Education to provide Ashford students with relief from their federal student loans.