4 Shady Business Practices That Trump University Used To Target Students


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Documents detailing exactly how Trump University convinced students to enroll in its real estate classes were made public on Tuesday after a federal court ordered their release.

The business, which began operating in 2005 and is now defunct, was actually never an accredited university. Instead, students paid thousands of dollars for advice from professors whom they believed were handpicked by Trump. In reality, the professors were not chosen by Trump, something the real estate mogul has admitted in depositions.

Now, Trump University is facing three lawsuits, including a lawsuit brought by the New York Attorney General and two class-action lawsuits brought by students in California who said they were swindled.

These “playbooks,” which show the script recruiters used to sign up prospective students, are being released as evidence in one of the ongoing class action lawsuits in California. The Washington Post requested that the documents be paid public, which the Trump legal team fought by arguing the playbook constituted “trade secrets.”

In his ruling requiring the release of the documents, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel explained that they’re in the public interest considering Trump’s status as the Republican “frontrunner” in 2016 presidential race. Trump has criticized the federal judge, saying he is “a hater,” and called him “unfair” during a Tuesday press conference. The trial has been postponed to November, and will happen after the election.

Here are some of the tactics employed by Trump University to target prospective students — referred to as “clients” — and convince them to attend the “university”:

Encourage struggling clients to enroll so they can feed their kids

“Consultants” are told to concentrate on the “psychology of the sale,” and the guide refers to the process of managing the clients’ emotions as the “Roller Coaster of emotions.” One way consultants are encouraged to “close” is to reference prospective students’ financial difficulties. For example, the guide says if a client is a single parent with three children who needs more money for food, consultants should use that information to encourage them to enroll.

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Steven D’Amico ‎@stevenjldamico

Ugh. #TrumpUniversity– find out if they are a single-=parent of 3 who needs money for food, use that to close.


Find out how much clients have in their bank account

The playbook tells consultants to “stroke their ego” if they have good credit to encourage the sharing of financial information but the guide also says consultants shouldn’t go too far in stroking egos. If they seem too impressed by a client’s investing prowess, clients may not think they need Trump University’s help, the guide explains. Consultants are also told to find out how much clients have in their retirement funds.


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Pat Dennis ‎@patdennis

Trump University kind of reminds me of a pickup artist. “Negging” their own customers

In regards to people who have no credit cards or used up their limits, the guide instructs consultants to look at “seed capital” or “savings set aside” if clients don’t have the “technique” of using “OPM…Other People’s Money,” or more specifically credit cards, at their disposal.

Make the product seem exclusive, and thus more valuable

In order to make access to the information Trump University provides seem more desirable, the guide instructs that clients should be interviewed and given the impression that the “university” was very selective, providing a script that reads, “If we decide to work with you, he’s going to tell you what we’re going to expect from you and also what you should expect from us.”

Brag about having dinner with Donald Trump

According to Time’s investigation into Trump University’s business practices, professors were supposed to tell students that they had a “close association” with Trump. One of the scripts cited even told instructors to say they had dinner with Trump.

The New York Attorney General’s lawsuit, first filed in 2013, claims that Trump University “repeatedly deceived students into thinking that they were attending a legally chartered ‘university’” and led students to believe the professors would be chosen by Trump himself.


Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress