The Internet has unleashed a torrent of alternative education options for would-be students of all stripes. Just about anything you want to know has been packaged and sold as the best thing in education since chalkboards.
But, even as alternatives to brick and mortar educational opportunities become more popular, many are beginning to see the dark side of ‘net ed. In the past, expensive for-profit private colleges have taken the brunt of the negative PR, but now there’s a new standard for educational shell games: Trump University.
But does the Donald’s real estate program deserve the negative attacks being hurled against it? At this point, it depends on who you ask … and likely who they plan to vote for.
The Trump camp doesn’t argue the fact that about one-quarter of TU students want their money back. In fact, he says the fact that the school refunded that cash makes them honorable. Customer wasn’t happy? They got their money back. Cased closed. That’s the argument pushed by Trump’s people. And it’s what Trump said during a deposition in a lawsuit filed by angry former students. Here’s what’s been reported as Trump’s quote in that testimony:
“I paid millions and millions of dollars in refunds. I mean, frankly, if I would have known that I was going to be in litigation, probably I wouldn’t have done it, although it was the honorable thing to do.”
However, even as Trump positions his actions as honorable, his primary opponents are listing it as just another Trump scam. Some bullets in that gun: that Trump said he handpicked the instructors, but really didn’t. Also, that people were being sold Trump’s name and expertise and being delivered an inferior product. The plaintiffs in the case disagree.
The real question, from a public relations perspective, is will this really all matter in the campaign. It certainly doesn’t matter to Trump supporters. Show them a failed Trump business, and they point to two successful Trump enterprises. Show them an incredulous opponent, and they’re quick to point out that candidates flaws.
Show the evidence to a supporter of one of Trump’s opponents and they will likely nod in immediate acceptance. They decided Never Trump a long time ago.
But what about undecided or swing voters? Their position will be decided by several dynamics, primarily who they want to believe and who offers the most compelling story. It’s not the evidence that will convince anyone. No one outside the courtroom – and not everyone in it – will ever hear all the evidence. The strength of what they do hear will depend on how that narrative is delivered. Once again, it comes down to the context of the message, not the content of that message.