California attorney general visits campus to announce lawsuit

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaking at San Francisco State

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra speaking at San Francisco State University on Wednesday, November 29, 2017.

Becerra contrasted student-centered mission of SF State with predatory, for-profit university

At a press conference at San Francisco State University on Wednesday, President Les Wong welcomed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and thanked him for choosing SF State to highlight the importance of supporting public higher education. Becerra announced that after a multi-year investigation, his office has filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court against Ashford University and its parent company, Bridgepoint Education. Ashford and Bridgepoint have allegedly engaged in deceptive and misleading practices against students as well as unlawful debt collection practices.

Becerra contrasted the predatory practices of Ashford University, an online-only institution, with the opportunities offered at SF State. “This is a brick-and-mortar institution with libraries, classrooms, dorms, laboratories — everything that makes a campus for a student to be able to not just learn but to really grow,” said Becerra. “It’s very different from a university that has none of this but yet charges way more than San Francisco State for a degree that they claim would give you something similar.”

Becerra said Ashford targeted low-income, minority students or the first in their families to attend college. “That’s me and my family,” said Becerra. He said that other students Ashford targeted were military service members and veterans, who have the GI bill to help them pay their debt. “They’re low-hanging fruit for some of these for-profit institutions.”

Becerra compared the $13,560 cost of tuition for two semesters at Ashford University — “which has none of these buildings, none of the labs, none of the libraries because it’s all online” — with the average tuition for two semesters at SF State of $7,254. The average Ashford University student’s loan debt is about $34,000, twice the amount owed by the average SF State University student.

The lawsuit seeks restitution for students whom Becerra says Ashford misled, and a permanent injunction against Ashford prohibiting it from engaging in activities such as misleading students and investors and using illegal debt-collection practices. “We’re filing this lawsuit because these actions won’t fly in California,” said Becerra. “This is not the way you treat California and this country’s next generation of leaders.”

In his concluding remarks, SF State President Les Wong reaffirmed the University’s commitment to social justice and opposition to oppression and marginalization. “This announcement today underscores the importance of access to higher education for all Californians and the role of universities like San Francisco State in providing an affordable and high-quality education,” Wong said. “Students, not profits, are our priority.”