Donald Trump doesn’t dispute that 25% of Trump University students demanded their money back, but he says that’s not a knock against his real estate school.
In fact he said the high refund rate proves the school was “honorable.”
“I paid millions and millions of dollars in refunds,” he said in a Jan. 21 deposition for a federal lawsuit in California brought by ex-students suing the school for fraud. “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.”
Trump said he didn’t know what percentage of students got refunds. But when the opposing lawyer repeatedly said that the figure was 25%, he didn’t challenge it despite the contentious nature of the examination.
A spokesperson for the Trump Organization declined to tell CNN what percentage of students received a refund.
“Mr. Trump’s deposition was simply Plaintiffs’ chance to elicit information in hopes of making a case,” Trump’s organization said. “It does not contain Mr. Trump’s side of the case, which will be presented in court proceedings and which will demonstrate that plaintiffs’ lawsuit has no substance.”
Trump insists that so many refunds aren’t a sign that students were dissatisfied with the school, which charged as much as $36,000 in tuition. He said it was a normal part of doing business, comparable to what a retailer like the Home Shopping Network has to pay.
He even said some of the students who got their money back were happy with the program.
“I think that’s instinctual,” he said. “If people think they can get a refund, they’re going to ask.”
He said there were glowing reviews from students.
“I actually thought that people were very happy at the school,” he said. “I was very surprised [by the criticism] That’s why I didn’t settle this case, which I could have settled very easily a long time ago.”
When the opposing lawyer asked him if he would be satisfied if one of his hotels gave refunds to 25% of its guests, he dismissed the question.
“It doesn’t happen. It’s a different business,” he said. “They wouldn’t ask for a refund because they wouldn’t get it. You wouldn’t give a refund on a hotel.”
Trump was also grilled about the qualifications of the school’s instructors, who marketing materials said were “Donald Trump’s handpicked instructors.”
But he couldn’t identify the instructors when asked to by the opposing lawyer, and admitted he was not involved in hiring them.
“I would see resumes,” Trump said. But he said the final decision was up to Trump University president Michael Sexton. “I told him…I want very good people,” Trump said.
But when Trump was asked to watch a tape about what one instructor was telling students, even he questioned the teacher’s Trump qualifications.
“In watching, it sounded to me like he…embellished his record and he slipped through the cracks,” Trump said.
Trump University has become a hot-button issue in the Republican presidential campaign with Trump’s opponents frequently attacking him on it.