The FTC filed suit against Devry University on January 27th, alleging that its ads, stating that 90 percent of its graduates obtained jobs in their field of study, and were making 15 percent more than graduates from other colleges and universities in their first year out of school were deceptive.
In its claim for a Permanent Injunction, the FTC alleges that Devry used English and Spanish ads through paper materials, TV, and social media, including its website, about the benefits of obtaining a Devry degree.
The basis for the ads are through manipulation of data maintained by Devry’s Career Services office. According to the FTC, the actual data does not substantiate the claims.
The claims in the complaint include the fact that students were not included in certain statistics and others who should have been excluded were not, which skewed the statistics in a deceptive way.
The FTC also found that reliance on a third party vendor who provided an income report also did not substantiate the higher income claim. The complaint states that the assumptions and conclusions in the report “all gave or should have given Defendants reason to question the reliability of the conclusions and information contained in the report,” including the fact that the statistics in the report “differed significantly” from Devry’s internal statistics.
The FTC alleges that these claims were deceptive and a violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act.
Message for higher education institutions: consider implications of mining the data, skewing the data and relying on third party vendors in reporting the data before publishing it and advertising it.