How Trump University urged broke single parents to take on debt so that Donald Trump could make money


“Urgency is proportional to pain… And the more it hurts, the more they’ll be prepared to pay for a speedy solution.”

This is just one of the many pieces of predatory advice featured in the Trump University playbook, the sales guide used to recruit students to the for-profit real estate course created by Donald Trump.

The 2009 version of the guide was released Tuesday after a judge overseeing one of the class-action lawsuits against the business—Trump University is currently named in three separate lawsuits—unsealed it along with several other documents related to the case.

The first thing to know about Trump University, which former students involved in the lawsuit claim defrauded them of tens of thousands of dollars, is that it’s not actually a school: the now-defunct company was never an accredited university.

The for-profit enterprise also used manipulative pop psychology to make sales, which, in the case of Trump University, meant up-selling students on course packages that could cost up to $35,000.

“This is where you help your client start to develop the dream of what is possible while working with a coach or mentor,” read one section. “The more vivid and real you can make those dreams, the more your client will see they need help and they need it now!”

Salespeople were also instructed to prey on people’s personal pain points: “Are they a single parent of three children that may need money for food? Or are they a middle aged commuter that is tired of traveling for 2 hours to work each day?”

And if, say, this hypothetical single parent of three children who may need money for food didn’t have the cash to spend on Trump University, she was encouraged to take on credit card debt, as one former sales person testified: “I am aware that instructors were trained to, and witnessed them, asking students during the $1,500 seminars to call their credit card companies and raise their credit limits two, three, or four times so they would be able to invest in real estate.”

If the students were hesitant to take on debt, there was a script for that, too: “Every single company goes into debt when they are first starting out, EVERY SINGLE BUSINESS!”

And if they couldn’t raise their credit card limit, or didn’t have a credit card to begin with, salespeople were advised to ask potential students about any savings they had: “Do you have any other seed capital or savings set aside to further invest into your real estate projects?”

And while advertising materials suggested that Trump personally selected the instructors leading his courses, as his own testimony revealed back in March, he had never met any of them. Trump left the hiring to other people, he said, offering the vague instruction that Trump University should employ “very good people.”

“Very good people” apparently included individuals with no real estate experience whatsoever, according to testimony from a former salesperson:

During the time that I was employed at Trump University, many of the speakers, instructors, and mentors lacked real estate experience. Many of them did not even own houses, and had no experience buying or selling real estate. For example, I recall that [Trump University instructor] David Stamper had no real estate experience; he was a jewelry salesman.

There are hundreds and hundreds of pages of documents that go on like this.

And yet, Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the presidency who has been campaigning as a populist, insists that Trump University will live again once the election quiets down: “Ivanka, Don, Eric and my family will start it up [again],” Trump said back in March. “We have a lot of great people who want to get back into Trump University.”

The trial is set for November 28, 2016, twenty days after the presidential election.

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