The Higher Education Issue You Haven't Heard About This Election Season

Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images.
The latest Republican primary debate featured a hot-button higher education issue you might not have heard about: Trump University. (Yes, really.)

The venture, reportedly started in 2004, purported to teach valuable "real estate strategies," as ABC News notes. Tuition ranged from $1,500 for a three-day workshop to $20,000 for a yearlong mentorship. Some 7,000 students signed up, spending an estimated $40 million, according to The Huffington Post.

But the university didn't appear to get an A from students — or regulators. Fox News' Megyn Kelly, one of the debate's moderators, said during Thursday's debate that Trump University had a D- rating from the Better Business Bureau. For his part, Trump claimed that the institution had an A rating, adding that students made "a lot of money by taking the course." Politifact, the independent fact-checking organization, deemed that statement false.

The poor rating wasn't the program's only problem. More than 5,000 plaintiffs are participating in a class action lawsuit against the school, calling it a scam. The lawsuit alleges that the students didn't learn the promised lessons about "how to get rich in the real-estate business," according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Now, they're thousands of dollars in debt.

It also turned out that Trump University wasn't accredited. In 2010, it was renamed the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative. The New York State Education Department considered the "university" title to be "misleading," because it was unlicensed as an educational institution, The Washington Post explains. The New York State attorney general's office sued the school in 2013.

Trump's Republican rivals in the presidential race have taken to criticizing him about the institution in light of the lawsuit news. At the debate Thursday, Florida Senator Marco Rubio said that Trump is "trying to do to the American voter what he did to the people who signed up for this course: He's making promises he has no intention of keeping."

"People owe all of this money now and got nothing in return for it," the senator said at the debate, addressing Trump. "You were willing to say whatever you had to say to get them to give you their money."

When they weren't duking it out over the issues, the candidates traded blows on topics that seemed more appropriate for a junior high schoolyard than a debate stage. Trump referenced his penis size — really! — and Rubio made a joke about yoga. Watch the clips, below: