September 9, 2019

Falwell, Trump’s Favorite College President, Pioneered the Scam Non-Profit College

Falwell, Trump's Favorite College President, Pioneered the Scam Non-Profit College

When the head of fraudulent Trump University became President of the United States, he quickly anointed Jerry Falwell, Jr., as his favorite college president. The Liberty University head had endorsed Trump for the White House in January 2016. In return, at least according to Falwell, president-elect Trump offered to make Falwell his Secretary of Education. Falwell opted to stay at Liberty, so Trump then reportedly asked Falwell to lead a task force on reforming higher education.

The task force never happened, but Trump Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has carried out the kind of destruction of Obama-era protections for students and taxpayers that Falwell had declared was needed. Meanwhile, Falwell defended Trump’s “very fine people” assessment of the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, and more recently tweeted that Trump’s four-year term should be extended two years as “reparations” for enduring the Mueller Russia probe, which he called a “corrupt failed coup.”

Now a blockbuster Politico report details the shameless pillaging of the non-profit Liberty by Falwell, who, according to the article, “presides over a culture of self-dealing, directing university resources into projects and real estate deals in which his friends and family have stood to make personal financial gains.” The article also documents Falwell’s use of Liberty resources to engage in partisan politics, specifically to promote Trump and other Republicans. For those of us who have been awake in America for the past three years, that corrupt approach to leadership sounds awfully familiar.

Where does Liberty University get all the money — assets now exceeding $3 billion — to allow for Falwell’s shameless self-dealing? From students, on campus and online, aggressively recruited by the school, and from billions in taxpayer-funded student grants and loans.

If the Liberty model sounds familiar to readers of Republic Report, yeah — it’s basically the business model of predatory for-profit colleges. And, seeking to escape the stigma and regulations that their abusive behavior created, for-profit colleges — including CollegeAmerica, Keiser University, Kaplan/Purdue Global, the Art Institutes, Ashford, and Grand Canyon — have in recent years converted to non-profit, in shady deals that allow former owners and current executives to keep making big money, even though tax-exempt non-profits are supposed to serve only the public good.

Many students at these schools — veterans, single mothers, and others seeking a better future — end up with no improvement in their career prospects but buried in overwhelming student debt.

Such for-profit to non-profit conversions require approval of various overseers, but the IRS has long abdicated its responsibility to scrutinize non-profits, college accreditors tend to go along, and the DeVos Department of Education, run by former executives of predatory schools, is always an enthusiastic cheerleader for innovative college scams and has allowed the bogus deals to go forward and the federal aid to keep flowing.

As these fake non-profit predatory schools count the hundreds of millions they receive from taxpayers and from students, they can thank not only Donald Trump for trashing the obstacles to their disgraceful behavior but also Trump crony Jerry Falwell Jr. for pioneering this ugly business model.