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Trump University gets failing grade for claim of acing Better Business Bureau rankings

Consumer watchdog the Better Business Bureau has clarified its position on now defunct Trump University after the agency's score became a political football in a recent Republican Presidential debate.

Grade was A+ by 2015 because complaints expire after 3 years and school practically shut in 2011

Senator Marco Rubio, left, disputed Donald Trump's claim that his eponymous school received a top rating from the Better Business Bureau. (Gary Coronado/Bloomberg)

Consumer watchdog the Better Business Bureau has clarified its position on now-defunct Trump University after the agency's score became a political football in a recent Republican presidential debate.

The school named after and founded by bombastic candidate Donald Trump came up in last week's debate, with the GOP frontrunner shaking off claims the school provided no value to its students, saying at one point: "We have an A from the Better Business Bureau."

His rival, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, quickly interjected with a claim the bureau had in fact given Trump's eponymous school a rating of D–.

On Tuesday, the group put out a statement clarifying its views on the school, which ostensibly taught business management, real estate and wealth creation skills to students via web-based distance learning. Founded in 2005, Trump University largely ceased operations by May 2011.

It turns out, both claims are true — sort of.

The bureau says contrary to Trump's claims, the school "does not currently have an A rating with BBB. The BBB Business Review for this company has continually been "No Rating" since September 2015. Prior to that, it fluctuated between D– and A+."

The school's rating reached its low of D– in 2010 because of multiple consumer complaints. But the bureau wipes out complaints after three years, so they no longer affect the ongoing company's rating.

"As the company appeared to be winding down, after 2013, no new complaints were reported. Complaints over three years old automatically rolled off of the Business Review, according to BBB policy. As a result, over time, Trump University's BBB rating went to an A in July 2014 and then to an A+ in January 2015.

"At no point did [the bureau] change the rating of Trump University based upon a demand from anyone," the watchdog said. "The BBB followed its standard evaluation process applicable to all businesses."

Trump has portrayed a lawsuit brought against his school as the work of a law firm that recruited former students to try to squeeze money out of him. The school charged tuition as high as $35,000 US for unaccredited courses.

About the Author

Pete Evans

Senior Writer, CBCNews.ca

Pete Evans is the senior business writer for CBCNews.ca. Prior to coming to the CBC, he had stints at Report on Business, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, Canadian Business Magazine and elsewhere. Twitter: @p_evans Email: pete.evans@cbc.ca Secure PGP: https://secure.cbc.ca/public-key/Pete-Evans-pub.asc

With files from The Associated Press

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