Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of university:
University: an institution of higher learning providing facilities for teaching and research and authorized to grant academic degrees; specifically : one made up of an undergraduate division which confers bachelor’s degrees and a graduate division which comprises a graduate school and professional schools each of which may confer master’s degrees and doctorates
So how did Donald Trump get away with calling his bogus real estate training program a university? Trump University is now facing multiple lawsuits alleging that the whole thing was a scam to bilk gullible victims out of their money. I’ve seen lots of press coverage exposing Trump University as a fraud, but nothing about the fraud of calling the whole business a university in the first place.
Maybe Americans have become so used to inflated rhetoric and misleading advertising that using the term “university” to mean anything Donald Trump wants it to mean just seems normal to them. Trump University was a university in the way the homeopathic medicine shelves at Whole Foods are a hospital. Or the way the all-natural ingredients in Kashi cereal are all natural. Or the way the latest anti-aging cream that Dr. Oz is hawking actually has any anti-aging properties. False advertising works because people want to believe it; and the poor schmucks who got bilked by Trump University desperately wanted to believe they were getting something special for maxing out their credit cards. A university—wow! Had Trump called the scam simply a real estate course, nobody would have signed up.
Or maybe it’s a question of idioms. Could it be that the absurdity of calling a series of real estate courses a university is over the heads of most Americans because Americans don’t talk about going to university? Americans talk about going to college. They know that those who attended Trump University weren’t going to college; they were being taken to the cleaners.