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May 6, 2016

CONTACT: Natalia Abrams


RELEASE: Veterans Groups, Student Advocates Stand Up Against Partnership between The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The University of Phoenix

Higher Ed, Not Debt Partners Launch Petition Asking Host Ellen DeGeneres to Drop Partnership with For-Profit College Under Investigation by the Federal Trade Commission

Washington, D.C.— Veterans groups and student advocacy organizations are speaking out after The Ellen DeGeneres Show awarded a stay-at-home mom a $25,000 scholarship to the University of Phoenix, a heavily-scrutinized for-profit college currently under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General. The veterans and student advocacy organizations, part of the Higher Ed, Not Debt coalition, are voicing their opposition to the promotional partnership, which will also provide ten additional scholarships of $25,000 each to participating entrants. The partnership is widely perceived as an egregious departure from the progressive positions DeGeneres typically champions, and another example of the University of Phoenix preying on vulnerable Americans with predatory and misleading marketing tactics.

Promotional posts of the partnership on DeGeneres’ social media accounts have been removed in the wake of the public outcry, but neither DeGeneres nor representatives of her show have issued a public comment addressing the partnership, or confirmed whether or not DeGeneres was paid to air the segment. Veterans groups, many of which have called out University of Phoenix for abusing billions of GI Bill dollars to aggressively recruit returning veterans, were equally outraged that DeGeneres would lend support to a school that the federal government placed on probation for unlawful recruiting practices targeting veterans.

“Veterans using their GI Bill education benefits deserve better than a school that spends less than $1,000 per student on instruction while employing thousands of recruiters and spending exorbitant amounts on recruiting, executive salaries, and profits,” said Walter Ochinko, Policy Director for Veterans Educations Success. “Last fall, the Department of Defense temporarily suspended new enrollment by Phoenix for service-members using Tuition Assistance because of unauthorized recruiting on military bases, inappropriate use of military seals as a marketing tool, and ongoing investigations into allegations of deceptive marketing and advertising by both the Federal Trade Commission and the California Attorney General. The DeGeneres plug for Phoenix is yet another example of the Phoenix commitment to marketing rather than focusing on providing a quality education to all students, including veterans and service-members.”

Already, a petition calling on The Ellen Show to drop the partnership with Phoenix has garnered over 6,700 signatures. Today, Generation Progress and Higher Ed, Not Debt are launching an “Email Ellen” tool to allow student loan borrowers to email Ellen directly to voice their concerns. Groups are also planning to hand-deliver the petitions calling for The Ellen Show to distance itself from the University of Phoenix at its Burbank, California studio.

“Ellen has been an important champion on so many progressive issues in the past, and that’s why seeing her lend her brand to one of the most predatory for-profit universities out there is so difficult to swallow,” said Maggie Thompson, Executive Director of Generation Progress. “Using her public platform to support the University of Phoenix, and refusing to reveal whether she was paid for the segment is unacceptable.  The University of Phoenix exploits vulnerable Americans and is so far from what we’ve come to love and expect from Ellen. We are calling on Ellen to revoke her support for this company that abuses taxpayer dollars for their own profit, evades and manipulates government regulations, and provides little educational payoff for its high cost of tuition.”

With the University of Phoenix’s well-documented record of driving its enrollees into debt while providing them with a low-value education, student advocacy organizations were quick to sound off as well. Noting the discrepancy between Phoenix’s marketing versus instructional expenses, as well as the fact that0 only one-in-five University of Phoenix students graduates within 150 percent of time (6 years for a bachelor’s degree and 3 years for an associate’s degree), the groups were displeased that DeGeneres would offer the company a platform to continue its dangerous practices.

“I was truly disappointed to see that Ellen, a typically progressive champion, had compromised on important values like college affordability and higher education,” said Natalia Abrams, Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis. “Her partnership with the predatory for-profit college University of Phoenix gives her stamp of approval to a company that has earned itself a concerning reputation for defrauding veterans and targeting students. On her show, Ellen offered a scholarship that hardly covers the Phoenix’s inflated tuition rates, misleading millions of viewers who may very well be the effected by the Phoenix’s alarming student loan default rates. Student Debt Crisis stands for the thousands of our members who have been harmed by for-profit colleges and asks Ellen to end her partnership with the University of Phoenix, now.”

To sign the petition, click here.

For more information or to speak with an expert, contact Natalia Abrams at or 310-365-1069


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