March 7, 2022
In lawsuit filed by California Attorney General, Ashford and parent Zovio were found to have made bogus claims about career outcomes, costs and financial aid to lure vulnerable students to enroll in the online university.
Former San Diego for-profit college Ashford University and its parent company have been fined $22.37 million in a long-running California lawsuit over hardball admission tactics that left some students deep in debt and without a degree.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Eddie Sturgeon ruled last week that Ashford and Zovio — formerly Bridgepoint Education — violated unfair competition and false advertising laws by giving prospective students bogus information to lure them to enroll. The college also misled students about job prospects, the cost of college and financial aid, the pace of an online degree program and the ability to transfer credits, the court said.
The ruling in the civil action followed an 18-day bench trial in November that described Ashford’s admissions operation as a boiler room environment focused on hitting enrollment quotas rather than providing guidance to prospective students. The California Attorney General’s Office filed the lawsuit in 2017.
A lot has changed since then. Ashford University, which at its peak had 80,000 mostly online students, no longer exists. It was acquired in late 2020 by The University of Arizona Global Campus — a non-profit organization affiliated with the University of Arizona to provide online higher education programs.