Donald Trump, the celebrity billionaire whose bid for the Republican presidential nomination has been a source of mild to major annoyance for, well, most people, is hardly overseeing his first bid to educate the American public. To say so would be to forget Trump University, the virtual, for-profit “college” he started in 2005.
Speaking to the times, the endeavor relied on the sale (at hundreds of dollars a pop) of CDs and DVDs while relieving students of burdensome higher-ed staples such as tests and degrees. This being The Donald, the rhetoric was strong. One DVD set promised that, with it, “you cannot fail to transform your future.”
Things got off to a rough start. Mr. Trump’s first lecture, delivered digitally to more than 2,000 people (who had paid $249 to see it), was delayed 45 minutes after the company’s computer services crashed. (And he said what about healthcare.gov?)
The “college,” which neither sought nor received accreditation, provoked predictable jabs. Fortune magazine suggested some courses that Trump U. might be exceptionally qualified to offer. Among them: “Intro to Accounting: Smoke, Mirrors, and Other Financial Tools” (an introduction to “obscurantism and the fiduciary arts”) and “Advanced Accounting: Bankruptcy.”
But others didn’t find the project so funny. In 2010, New York State’s Education Department sent Trump University a letter demanding that it stop calling itself a “university” since it didn’t grant degrees and wasn’t accredited. (Trump University changed its name to the “Trump Entrepreneur Initiative” later that year.)
New York’s attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, took further action in 2013, suing the company formerly known as Trump University for making false claims about its classes. (Michael Cohen, a lawyer for the company, pointed The New York Times to thousands of student evaluations he said the school had received, 98 percent of which were “extremely satisfied.”)
At least one student was not among those ranks. Tarla Makaeff of San Diego sued Trump University in 2010, asserting that it engaged in deceptive business practices. The institution filed a countersuit claiming Ms. Makaeff’s lawsuit was defamatory. The countersuit was thrown out in 2013.
A trip back in time (via the Wayback Machine) on the Trump University website yields some interesting details, including its course offerings and some great merchandise. (Great, I mean, if purchased today on eBay and worn ironically.)
But the most notable find has to be “The Trump Blog,” which is, quite simply, amazing. Consider Mr. Trump’s takes on parenting, Elton John’s wedding (which he wasn’t invited to but concludes, “If two people dig each other, they dig each other”), Hurricane Katrina, why Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey should have had a prenuptial agreement (“I guess he didn’t read my books”), why The New York Times is going to hell, another post on why The New York Times is going to hell (he objected to, somewhat surprisingly, its much-maligned reporting during the lead-up to the Iraq war), and why we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn George Clooney for not making a return appearance on the TV show ER.Return to Top