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Globe University misled students about job prospects, lawsuit says

MINNEAPOLIS — Woodbury-based Globe University misled students in its criminal justice programs about their career prospects, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said in a lawsuit against the for-profit school.

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Swanson described a “sales-oriented culture” at the school, which she says aggressively pursued potential students with deceptive claims about jobs they would land and their ability to transfer credits to other schools.

“This school left some people deep in debt with promises that did not materialize,” Swanson said in announcing the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court.

In a statement, Globe said claims made in the lawsuit “could not be further from the truth.” It said its recruiters alert students that the criminal justice program does not fulfill requirements to become a police officer in the state. Course catalogs and enrollment agreements include this information; they also urge students to check with other campuses where they might want to transfer credits before enrolling.

“Regrettably, today’s misguided action threatens jobs and quality career-focused education for thousands of Minnesotans,” the statement said.

The almost 130-year-old Globe and its sister school, Minnesota School of Business, have seen rapid enrollment growth in recent years. The two schools serve more than 11,000 students on campuses in five states and online.

For-profit institutions of higher education and their marketing practices have become the focus of intense scrutiny in recent years — here in Minnesota and nationally. In 2012, a report from a two-year U.S. Senate investigation sharply criticized these colleges’ recruitment tactics and graduation and loan default rates.

Last year, Swanson’s office reached a settlement with Milwaukee-based Herzing University, another for-profit, over its unaccredited medical assistant associate degree.

Swanson pointed to other legal troubles for Globe over the years, including a whistleblower jury verdict last year that awarded a former dean $400,000. The dean, Heidi Weber, said she was fired after raising concerns about Globe’s recruitment practices, among other issues.

“Some of these problems have persisted with this school for a long time,” Swanson said.

Swanson said the university steered students wanting to be police officers into its bachelor’s program, which lacks needed accreditation in Minnesota. It recommended its two-year associate’s degrees to would-be probation officers, although the state and most counties require at least a bachelor’s degree for such jobs.

The criminal justice degrees at Globe cost $35,100 for the associate degree and $70,200 for the bachelor’s degree. Swanson’s office could not immediately say how many students might have been affected by the practices the lawsuit targets. Swanson said she expects the suit’s scope to expand.

She said her office reviewed training manuals for recruiters and marketing materials that paint a picture of an institution bent on enrolling students at all costs.

She played a clip from the recent movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” in which Leonardo DiCaprio’s stockbroker character describes a tactic also found in Globe’s training manual: Once you make your pitch, keep silent until you get a yes. If recruiters speak first, the manual says, they “lose the sale.” Recruiters are trained not to take no for an answer from prospective students, Swanson said.