Consumer protection trial underway between state, for-profit schools

Lori Swanson
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson
Jim Mone | AP 2015

The state began its case Monday against two for-profit schools for misleading students about job prospects once they got their degrees.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson says Globe University duped students into thinking they would have jobs in law enforcement when they graduated, despite the fact that Globe is not regionally accredited, meaning students have to go to another school in order to become certified by the state's police training board.

It can cost up to $80,000 for students to go through the police and probation officers program.

Globe University
Globe University building
Tim Post | MPR News 2011

The civil suit also includes Minnesota School of Business, which has the same owner as Globe, and alleges that the Woodbury-based schools also misled students that the credits earned there would transfer.

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In his opening statement in Hennepin County Civil Court in Minneapolis, Solicitor General Alan Gilbert said students were recruited to the schools using heavy-handed sales tactics and were not given job search help as advertised. Gilbert also said the schools misrepresented their job placement numbers.

Joseph Anthony, attorney for the Woodbury-based schools, noted that all colleges and universities make sales pitches — including the University of Minnesota.

Globe and the Minnesota School of Business were clear in training sales representatives, Anthony said, and they told students that whether credits transfer would be decided by the school to which they move.

If the state wins, Anthony said, thousands of students will have diplomas tainted by the trial.

A spokesperson for the attorney general's office said the state wants all former students from the schools receive a letter informing them of the suit, and alerting them they can file a restitution claim if they believe they were misled.

The median debt of a graduate from Globe's associate degree program was more than twice as high compared to that of a Minnesota community college student, based on 2013 data from the state's higher education office.

That gap was the same for a graduate of the Minnesota School of Business as well. The median debt amount was about $53,000 for a bachelor's degree, compared to $25,000 for a University of Minnesota student.

The trial — which the attorneys expect to last a month — will include former students, employees of the universities and representatives from other schools where students tried to transfer credits.

Some members of the family that owns the schools are also expected to testify.