A new class-action lawsuit contends Fort Lauderdale-based Keiser University is violating the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act by using automated dialing systems to call mobile numbers registered with the National Do Not Call Registry as many as three times per day.
According to the complaint filed by the Tallahassee firm of Dudley, Sellers, Healy & Heath, Keiser employs more than 350 recruiters as “admissions counselors” who sit in windowless cubicles making up to 100 phone calls a day, trying to persuade prospective students to take out thousands of dollars in loans.
Anonymous online reviews on websites like Glassdoor.com and Indeed.com back up these claims. One former admissions counselor writes, “You are working for a deceitful system that expects you to make sales out of people's desire to go back to school by sometimes humiliating them and calling them out on their lack of commitment or financial misgivings. You're not a counselor, but a glorified sales rep that is expected to make over a hundred calls a day from your cubicle. [To] maintain numbers and increase sales...is required by this organization for people to keep their jobs.”
Tactics like these are commonly used by for-profit colleges that offer dubious credentials in exchange for mountains of debt, but Keiser University is actually a nonprofit — at least on paper.
As Michael Vasquez at the Miami Herald has documented, Keiser switched to nonprofit status in 2011, right after the Obama administration threatened to cut off for-profit colleges from receiving federal funding. At the time, the school was also being investigated by the Florida attorney general’s office for deceptive recruitment practices. (Keiser never admitted wrongdoing but worked out a settlement.)
But even as a nonprofit, Keiser University is still incredibly lucrative for founder and president Arthur Keiser, who earns $855,842 per year, more than the president of Harvard. He also receives payments and interest on the $321 million loan that he made to the nonprofit so it could buy Keiser University from him. And if that weren’t enough, the school pays close to $14.6 million a year to rent buildings from companies Keiser has a stake in.
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The good news: If you’ve ever gotten an unwanted telemarketing call from Keiser University, you may stand to make some money — if the class-action lawsuit succeeds.
A spokesman for Keiser declined to comment on the suit, saying, "Keiser University has not been served in this matter. It would be inappropriate to comment or speculate on any potentially pending litigation. As it has been for the past 40 years, Keiser University’s educational commitment to our students, alumni, employees, and communities we serve throughout Florida and internationally will always be our top priority.”
You can read the full text of the complaint below: