January 30, 2014

For-Profit DeVry University’s Deals with Sochi Olympians


The New York Times Wednesday published a story on the deal between the U.S. Olympic committee and the for-profit DeVry University, under which DeVry is designated an official education provider to Olympic athletes. The Times reported that DeVry had “landed” 15 U.S. athletes headed to Sochi, but it noted that the terms of the overall deal have not been disclosed. Republic Report, however, has obtained a document outlining a deal, or proposed deal, between DeVry and one U.S. Winter Olympian. Below is the text of that document, with a few details, such as the athlete’s name, removed by me.

I will let others try to interpret what it all means, but it does appear that the athlete in question, in exchange for allowing DeVry to publicize the relationship, gets $25,000 from DeVry, plus additional money for doing promotional work for DeVry, or for winning Olympic medals.  So this is not just about students getting an education from DeVry; it appears to also be about them being paid endorsers for the school.

For-profit colleges get some $33 billion a year from federal tax dollars, and they spend a significant amount buying celebrity endorsers, from Suze Orman to Michelle Rhee, Shannon Doherty to Marc Morial. They presumably hope that such endorsements will counter the bad press that many schools in the industry have been getting for deceiving and abusing students.

Senator Tom Harkin’s comprehensive report on the for-profit college industry revealed much negative information about Illinois-based DeVry: tuition for an associates degree that is 10 times that at community colleges; a high 18 percent student loan default rate; a high dropout rate of 50 percent (60 percent for online students) within a median of 3 1/2 months; spending per student of less than $3000 per year on education, about a quarter of what is spent by the University of Illinois; a CEO salary of $6.3 million, 46 times more than the president of the University of Illinois; and evidence of deceptive recruiting of students. As the Times noted, at least two state attorneys general,  Illinois and Massachusetts, are investigating DeVry.

Here’s the Olympic athlete agreement:


DeVry University

Athlete Deal Points 

Athlete Name: [   ]

Date: [    ],  2013 

Term: Through 2014; including the Games period

Category Exclusivity: all public, private and private sector educational institutions

Use of Name & Likeness: 



Digital – including webisode/vignettes

Social media



Access to athlete – owned imagery/video footage

Commercial/Marketing/Content Dates: 

8 hours

  • One (1) 8-hour day or 2(two) 4-hour days
  • Exclusive of hair travel and makeup

Media Training/Content Gathering: 

Four (4) hours of media training – can be done by phone in multiple meetings

Performance Bonus: 

Gold Medal: $5,000

Silver Medal: $3,500

Bronze Medal: $1,500

Additional Bonus Opportunities: 

TV Appearance: $10,000 per commercial

Radio voice recording: $5,000 per recording

Appearances & Public Relations (including SMTs): $5,000 per appearance

Additional Production Days: $5,000 per day

Social Media: $5,000


Logos of athlete [ ] apparel, footwear or other sponsors who are not USOC sponsors cannot appear in DeVry University marketing or PR usage

Exclusions/Not Needed: 

Logos on apparel

Compensation: $25,000


UPDATE [JAN. 30 9:50 PM ET]:

After I published this article just after midnight today, I emailed DeVry spokesperson Donna Shaults asking for the company’s response.  This afternoon, Shaults emailed me a statement:

DeVry University is an official education provider of Team USA and currently has more than 100 athletes enrolled in its various degree programs. We are very proud that 15 of them were named last week to the team bound for Sochi.

DeVry University does compensate those athletes who make promotional appearances on our behalf, just as any other organization that partners with the United States Olympic Committee. However, the agreement that was included in the article, ‘For-Profit DeVry University’s Deal with a Sochi Olympian’ from January 30, 2014, is not an executed contract. There is no such agreement that pays for a student athlete’s Olympic performance, for example.

We are disappointed that the Huffington Post did not verify this information before it chose to have it published. We are celebrating with our 15 student athletes whose dream of competing at such an elite level is coming true, and cheering on the more than 100 other student athletes who are also pursuing their Olympic dreams.

In response to my request for further clarification regarding the document, Shaults emailed me this evening, “The document included in the article was a draft agreement presented to DeVry University for consideration by its sponsor agency of record. DeVry did not proceed with the agreement and did not send it to any athletes or agents.”

I appreciate that DeVry responded. In the article text above I stated that I had obtained “a document outlining a deal, or proposed deal,” and that description remains accurate under DeVry’s statement. Still, I appreciate having DeVry’s explanation and appreciate the opportunity to share it here.

It doesn’t change the fact that, in contrast to the impression that might have been left for some readers of the New York Times article, the U.S. Olympic athletes who attend DeVry did not just happen to enroll there. They signed up for DeVry pursuant to the company’s sponsorship agreement, and, as DeVry acknowledges, at least some of them receive compensation as part of the deal.

However, I have modified the title from “For-Profit DeVry University’s Deal With A Sochi Olympian” to “For-Profit DeVry University’s Deals with Sochi Olympians” to better reflect DeVry’s explanation of the situation, and I regret the error.

In addition, in response to one part of DeVry’s statement, I want to stress that any error in this or any other article I post on the Huffington Post blog is mine and mine alone. I’m an independent commentator with access to the Huffington Post blog, and Huffington Post is not responsible for the content of my articles.

This article also appears on Huffington Post.