$7.25 million settlement reached to settle fraud claims against Ashford University

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Editor's note:  This story focuses specifically on a settlement reached between the State of Iowa and the parent company of Ashford University.  Each state’s attorney general has a website which includes an avenue for initiating an inquiry or a formal complaint. 

Ashford University denies wrongdoing but will pay $7.25 million to settle claims that recruiters lied to convince prospective students to enroll in online classes.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller alleged Ashford University and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education Inc., violated Iowa's Consumer Fraud Act by withholding some information, using high-pressure sales tactics, charging huge non-refundable fees and making misleading statements to convince prospective students to enroll in online classes.

Bridgepoint Education reported nearly 96% of its 63,624 students were enrolled through Ashford University online.  Nearly 800 of those students were enrolled at Ashford's Clinton campus.

“Our investigation found what we allege was troubling conduct by Ashford recruiters, including misleading prospective students to encourage them to sign on the dotted line,” Miller said.  “Unfortunately for many Ashford students, they didn’t get the degree they hoped for or the job they were led to believe they’d get after graduating.  What they did end up with was a crushing amount of student loan debt.”

Miller claimed some prospective students were told their online degree from Ashford would qualify them to become classroom teachers when they would actually need to meet additional requirements to qualify for teaching positions.

Some students were charged upfront technology fees between $900 and $1,290 that were not refunded even if the student dropped out shortly after payment was made.  The school website says they currently charge a $50-per-course technology fee.

Miller says the $7.25 million "Assurance of Voluntary Compliance" settlement will help reimburse an undetermined number of former and current Ashford online students from Iowa.

Current and former students are not required to have a complaint on file to be eligible for reimbursement.  The state's Consumer Protection Division will contact Iowa students who are eligible for compensation from the fund.  The exact level of reimbursement for specific students had not yet been announced.

In addition to the reimbursement fund, Ashford University and Bridgepoint Education agreed to standards that prohibit using "unconscionable or coercive tactics" to persuade students to enroll or remain enrolled; saying or implying that any online degree from Ashford will lead to licensure or certification without additional steps unless it is true; making false, deceptive or misleading statements, omitting material facts and engaging in unfair practices.

Ashford must also require incoming students with no previous college credits to participate in a free two-week online orientation program, and to allow students to withdraw from their first course within the first three weeks at no cost.

Miller said the settlement was the culmination of three years of investigation into the school's recruiting practices for online students.

Bridgepoint Education posted a loss of $4.4 million for first quarter, and the company expected to miss its quarterly filing deadline with the Securities and Exchange Commission.


  • Starla

    I was an online student so how does a person know how they are apart of the settlement. I graduated last year, and I could not get a job with my degree because the degree was not up to par. Now I have to pay thousands of dollars for nothing. I had called and asked about the schools accreditation, and many more questions before moving forward with my degree. I was told pretty much that everything was going to be o.k. and this happens. Only to be lied to.

  • Brandi Kerkove

    I was told after my Associates degree I could teach per-k and when I recieved it they told me no I had to get my Bachelors degree because I didn’t take the right classes. So I enrolled again and was told I could teach pre-k through 3rd grade after it and now here I am with a Bachelors degree and I can’t teach because I guess there is more I need to do. So I am in the same boat as you to. How do we find out.

      • A Damn Penguin Car

        Obviously lots of folks (including you, judging by your question with no question mark). The comments from Ashford alumni on this page offer convincing evidence that these folks were defrauded instead of educated.

    • Trina Underwood-bailey

      Same here. In the end they promised all sorts of things to get us to sign up, while knowing that they were lying. They are the professionals. Shouldn’t they have made sure that we were even qualified for the programs, and let us know so we could drop out in time?

  • Danielle Nichols

    I got screwed too, but I noticed it as I was starting my electives. All the classes were the same. I also live in Illinois.

  • Becka Lehmkuhl

    Are you serious? I am four courses in at ashford online… not for teaching but for accounting. How do we find out if our degrees will actually get us a career? Being a few thousand in debt already, I really need to know NOW.

    • Bella

      Look up the state licensing requirements. The reason the people trying to get a teaching degree online had problems is because of the state requirements to have a certain number of hours in classrooms, i.e. observations, pre-student teaching, and student teaching. Its a much more hands on degree than accounting.

      • Becka Lehmkuhl

        Yes but do they not have you go through the coursework? My administration advisor did. Then went through the website with me on the phone to give me a visual of what my degree’s coursework was. I do understand a bit more of it now. Some advisors may have been a little pressed. I know mine was and he quit and went on to non-profit. I don’t believe these workers should have a quotas or percentages due to the fact that online degrees range next to 100.000 plus.

  • Bella

    I used to work for Ashford…this all sounds about right. Say anything to keep people on the phone. Enroll a certain number of people per week or get fired.

  • Ryan Derrer

    Please contact me to let me know the process. I have already contacted the department of Education and had a meeting with Ashford’s dean of education about this exact stated issue. I am a resident in Illinois and would like to know the process on how to get started with this.

  • Anymous

    I worked for Ashford for a year as an enrollment advisor. At that time we were required to enroll 4 students a week and get them through their first class. We were paid on commission as to how many students we enrolled and completed their first week. If we didn’t get those apps in we were threatened with being written up and fired on a daily basis. They treated you like you didn’t matter (which is true) and that you can be replaced (which you could). One of the head people of this company actually came from Phoenix University online and knew the process to make millions of dollars, so he partnered up with the owner of Ashford (Bridgepoint). They also bought the school which is located in Clinton Iowa and their accreditation. We were taught to tell people that we have been accredited since 1951 when in reality its only been a few years since they started Ashford University.

    We told the person whatever they needed to hear to get them into classes like for instance, they would say ” I don’t have a computer”, we would say something like, “Oh well it’s an online class, you don’t need your own computer. You can do your reading at your own time at your convenience, and then go to the library which usually has free internet, and you can do your course work from there. You only need to login in twice per week.”

    My favorite was a person who was just out of prison on a sentence for fraud, writing bad checks, and money laundering, who wanted to get his accounting degree, so he could help people manage their money. So what they hell, I was told by manger to enroll him, lol.

    This company is out for the money, not their students. I hate to see anyone take classes with this place and think they are getting an actual degree. I have taken classes with this place and I never opened a book and passed the class with a B, how scary and sad is that?

  • C. Covey

    I am in this situation with Ashford right now. I was supposed to be getting my Bachelor degree in Behavioral Science but now I found out a year later I found out that if I continue with Ashford that 4 years will be a bachelor’s in Arts. That is not what will get to my goal of being a social worker. HELP IF YOU CAN GIVE ME ANY MORE INFO.

    • JonDoe4


      Here’s a suggestion for you. This is not to be construed professional advice. Google your state licensing board for social work. Every state has a department that certifies social workers. That website should tell you the legal requirements and education necessary to earn your license. It may or may not matter if you get a B.A. or B.S. in a social science (like psychology). If you still want to leave Ashford, you may as well complete the academic school year you paid for then drop before they approve a loan for the next year then transfer (or not). They do have a valid accreditation (for now). No school can “promise” all of your units can transfer w/o seeing your transcripts and agreeing to accept them after an evaluation. Dropping from class may cause a problem with going elsewhere and getting financial aid for at least 6 months to a year. You may as well stay on track and earn something for the money you’re paying (but that’s up to you). in the mean time, do research and talk to other traditional* schools with online programs.

      Ashford degrees can lead to careers. You Just need to have a plan. All schools sell you roses and sunshine but if you don’t know what you’re doing, reality will hit you. I went to a traditional 4 year college. Its the same deal. They’ll give you a degree and take your money but its up to you to figure out what your intended career requires of you (type of degree, license, etc).

      Good luck!

  • F.Niles

    I was enrolled with Ashford for my BA in business. After one year I became ill. I called to drop out of classes and still logged on twice a week for the next two weeks to make sure the dropout process was complete. When I got better, I called to reenroll and get my official transcript. At this time I was told I was a drop out and could not enroll or receive my transcript until I pay off a $10,000 loan that I later found out that was sent back from the school. So now I can’t enroll there or anywhere else. I need to be included in this settlement as well.

  • bob

    We had the same experience with Westwood College – another for profit school. They kept changing the graduation requirements, said they offer job placement assistance, etc., told us all graduates found jobs. Just a scam job. At least our son realized the scam after a few sessions, and quit. Still cost us a lot of money though.

  • Bob

    Please, everybody that attends a for-profit school like Ashford think about quitting. Go to a community college and save your money. In my position I hire people from time to time and I can tell you that a degree from Ashford (and similar schools) means less than the paper it’s printed on. From my viewpoint it’s worse than no college at all. It tells me that you were willing to waste ridiculous sums of money on an inferior education. That does not say much about your decision making ability. I live near Clinton Iowa and when people tell me with pride that their son, daughter, grandson, etc. is going to Ashford it just saddens me. You really can’t respond to them and say that they are wasting their money.

  • Alicia

    I was also an Ashford online student for a couple years and wondering how to know if I am a part of this, as all my information just changed recently and how they would get a hold of me. I was about to go back to finish and now I am not sure if I want to.

  • Alicia

    I also was trying to get my BA in Business Admin w a minor in finance and they told me it take less than 2 years and I also got sick and had to leave and came to find out about some bill and that I didn’t withdraw in time and before I only had a couple classes left and all of a sudden there are like 5 or so. I have already gone to this school longer than I should have had to in order to receive my degree and paid more money than a private school I attended previously. I would really like to know what is going on and how they find who is a part of this scam, I put way too much money to be treated like this and now I want my transcripts.

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