|Students||142,500 (2016) |
|Location||Phoenix, Arizona, United States (headquarters)|
|Campus locations||40 campuses and online John Sperling|
The University of Phoenix (UOPX) is a private for-profit college, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, United States. The university has an open enrollment admission policy, requiring a high-school diploma, GED, or its equivalent as its criteria for admissions. Founded in 1976, the university confers degrees in over 100 degree programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree levels. It is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Phoenix claimed a peak enrollment of almost 600,000 students in 2010, but its numbers have declined sharply since then. Enrollment was 142,500 on August 31, 2016. In 2017, it was acquired by Apollo Global Management, an American private equity firm.
The university was founded by John Sperling in 1976, where the first class consisted of eight students. In 1980, the school expanded to San Jose, California, and in 1989, the university launched its online program.
In 1994, University of Phoenix leaders made the decision to take the parent company, Apollo Group, public. Phoenix had more than 100,000 students within the first five years of going public. Growth in the company made John Sperling a billionaire. According to Senator Tom Harkin, who chaired hearings on for-profit colleges, "I think what really turned this company is when they started going to Wall Street."
In February 2016, the Apollo Group announced it would be sold to a private investment group, made up of Apollo Global Management, the Vistria Group, and the Najafi Companies, for $1 billion. Former U.S. Department of Education Deputy Secretary Anthony W. Miller, partner and chief operating officer of Vistria, would become chairman. The sale would have to be approved by both the U.S. Department of Education and the accreditation group the Higher Learning Commission in order to go forward.
In December 2016, the US Department of Education approved of the sale of Apollo Education Group by Apollo Global. However, the company was required to provide a letter of credit for up to $385 million.
The main campus is located in the city of Phoenix, Arizona. However, most students are participating online.
Students have access to class-specific online resources, which include an electronic library, textbooks, and other ancillary material required for a course. The university says that the electronic textbooks include search features and hyperlinks to glossary terms that make the books easier to use for research.
The University of Phoenix reports about 40 operating campuses, with more than 25 not taking new students.
University of Phoenix campuses will be closing in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Columbia , South Carolina, Detroit, El Paso, Honolulu, Philadelphia, Virginia Beach, and several locations in California and Florida.
In addition to its traditional education programs, the school offers continuing education courses for teachers and practitioners, professional development courses for companies, and specialized courses of study for military personnel.
Students spend 20 to 24 hours with an instructor during each course. The university requires students to collaborate by working on learning team projects, wherein the class is divided into learning teams of four to five students. Each learning team is assigned a team forum where team members discuss the project and submit their agreed upon portions of the learning team assignment for compilation by the nominated learning team leader.
Through its online portal, eCampus, students also have access to software required for coursework. Students have access to virtual companies created by the university to provide students with assignments, which Adam Honea, UOPX's dean and provost, claims are more realistic than those available with case studies. In August 2011, Apollo group announced it would buy 100% of Carnegie Learning to accelerate its efforts to incorporate adaptive learning into its academic platform.
Some academics and former students argue the abbreviated courses and the use of learning teams result in an inferior education. The University of Phoenix has been criticized for lack of academic rigor. Henry M. Levin, a professor of higher education at Teachers College at Columbia University, called its business degree an "MBA Lite", saying "I've looked at [its] course materials. It's a very low level of instruction."
The university runs a program called "corporate articulation agreements" that allows people who work at some companies to earn college credit for the training they have completed at their jobs. As of December 2015, the university had agreements in place with around 300 companies.
To qualify for college credit, students can either create a professional training portfolio or write an "experiential essay". A professional training portfolio is a collection of documents such as transcripts from other schools, certificates, licenses, workshops or seminars.
The University of Phoenix has an open admissions policy, which means that the school is accessible to anyone with a high school diploma or GED. In 2010, the university began an orientation program designed to lower dropout and default rates. Students must successfully complete a three-week orientation workshop in order to be eligible to start their first credit/cost bearing course.
Prior to 2010, Phoenix recruited students using high-pressure sales tactics, including making claims that classes were filling fast, by admissions counselors who are paid, in part, based on their success in recruiting students. Since 2010, changes were implemented to the way the university recruits students.
The university recruits students and obtains financial aid on their behalf, such as the Academic Competitiveness Grant, Federal Pell Grant, National Science & Mathematics Access to Retain Talent Grant (National SMART Grant), Federal Direct Student Loan Program, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Direct PLUS Loans, Federal Perkins Loan, and the Wounded Warrior Project. For the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the University of Phoenix student body received more Pell Grant money ($656.9 million) than any other university.
In 2013, USA Today listed University of Phoenix as a "red flag" institution for posting a student loan default rate (26%) that surpassed its graduation rate (17%). A 2010 report found that the University of Phoenix's online graduation rate was only 5 percent.
The University of Phoenix's Detroit campus has a graduation rate of 10%, but a student loan default rate of 26.4%, according to USA Today. Other controversies concern marketing and recruitment practices, instructional hours, being one of the top recipients of student aid, and having a student body that shoulders the most student debt of any college.
According to the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard, the University of Phoenix's average annual cost was $18,007 (about average). The average graduate earned $47,100 a year (above average). The institution's graduation rate was 17% (significantly below average).
In February 2013, a peer review group recommended to the HLC that the university be put on probation because the University of Phoenix "has insufficient autonomy relative to its parent corporation." On May 9, 2013, the Apollo Group filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission which stated that the HLC Institutional Actions Council First Committee ("IACFC") had recommended to the HLC that the university retain its regional accreditation, but that the university be placed on "notice" for two years. Their concerns centered on the university's governance, student assessment, and faculty scholarship in relation to Ph.D. programs. In July 2015, the Higher Learning Commission removed University of Phoenix from Notice Status.
Some individual colleges within the University of Phoenix hold specialty accreditation or are pre-accredited by accrediting agencies that are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
University of Phoenix is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Global Management.  Apollo Global purchased their parent company, Apollo Education Group, for approximately $1.1 billion. The university reported enrollment of 176,900 in Q1 2016, compared to 227,400 in Q1 2015. Near the time of sale, Apollo Group was planning to close 150 campuses across the country, and reported a Q1 2016 loss of $45.2 million.
Apollo Group, University of Phoenix's former parent company, spent between $376 million and $655 million per year on advertising and marketing, which includes the University of Phoenix brand. Much of this advertising is Internet advertising.
The university paid $154.5 million for 20-year naming rights for advertising purposes of the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, a municipal sports arena, home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, and the site of the NCAA's Fiesta Bowl. As a private, for-profit venture, the university does not participate in intercollegiate sports. The company terminated its naming rights deal on April 11, 2017, citing the company's economic difficulties, but their name would remain on the stadium until a replacement company was found to give naming rights to. On September 4, 2018, the stadium's naming rights were acquired by State Farm, succeeding the university in that capacity. However, the Cardinals still designate the university as the official education partner of the team.
Several American policymakers have been affiliated with the University of Phoenix and its parent company, Apollo Group. Former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has been a member of the Apollo Group Board of Directors. Jane Oates, a former staffer for Senator Ted Kennedy and the Department of Labor, became the Apollo Group's vice president for external in 2013. US Representative Nancy Pelosi's close friendship with University of Phoenix founder John Sperling has been documented by Suzanne Mettler in her book Degrees of Inequality.
In 2016, University of Phoenix partnered with the ASIS Foundation to provide scholarships for students studying for security-related degrees. In March 2016, the first ten scholarship recipients were announced.
U.S. military commanders at Fort Campbell, Kentucky allowed University of Phoenix representatives to erect advertising and place promotional materials in high-traffic areas. Access was provided in exchange for cash.
A co-founder of University of Phoenix, John D. Murphy, wrote in Mission Forsaken (2013) about the school's degeneration from a provider of working adult continuing education programs into a money making machine whose sole criterion for admission was eligibility for federally funded student loans.
University of Phoenix students owe more than $35 billion in student loan debt, the most of any US college.
Since 2009, the University of Phoenix has received $1.2 billion of federal money issued through the G.I. Bill. The university enrolled almost 50,000 such students in 2014, twice as many as any other institution.
In 2014, University of Phoenix was highlighted in a Time.com article titled "The 5 Colleges That Leave the Most Students Crippled By Debt."
The university has paid several government fines and settled whistle-blower lawsuits concerning its admissions practices and education programs. In 2000, the federal government fined the university $6 million for including study-group meetings as instructional hours. In 2002, the Department of Education relaxed requirements on instructional hours.
A 2003 lawsuit filed by two former university recruiters alleged that the university improperly obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid by paying its admission counselors based on the number of students they enrolled, a violation of the Higher Education Act. The university's parent company settled by paying the government $67.5 million, plus $11 million in legal fees, without admitting any wrongdoing.
In 2004, the Department of Education alleged that UOPX again violated Higher Education Act provisions that prohibit offering financial incentives to admission representatives and pressured its recruiters to enroll students. UOPX disputed the findings but paid a $9.8 million fine as part of a settlement where it admitted no wrongdoing and was not required to return any financial aid funds. The university also paid $3.5 million to the Department of Labor to settle a violation of overtime compensation regarding hours worked by UOPX's recruiters. The University of Phoenix settled a false-claims suit for $78.5 million in 2009 over its recruiter-pay practices.
In 2008, the university was the top recipient of student financial aid funds, receiving nearly $2.48 billion. In 2009, the Department of Education produced a report that claimed the untimely return of unearned Title IV funds for more than 10 percent of sampled students. The report also expressed concern that some students register and begin attending classes before completely understanding the implications of enrollment, including their eligibility for student financial aid. In January 2010, the parent company Apollo Group was required to post a letter of credit for $125 million by January 30 of the same year. In 2010, UOPX came under government scrutiny after its Phoenix and Philadelphia campuses were found to have been engaging in deceptive enrollment practices and fraudulent solicitation of FAFSA funds.
In 2014 the US Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General demanded records from the University of Phoenix and its parent company Apollo Group going back to 2007 "related to marketing, recruitment, enrollment, financial aid, fraud prevention, [and] student retention."
In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Defense suspended the university's ability to recruit on U.S. military bases and receive federal funding for educating members of the U.S. military. In describing the suspension, The Washington Post noted that "the decision arrives amid allegations that the university sponsored recruiting events in violation of an executive order preventing for-profit colleges from gaining preferential access to the military." Some federal legislators, including U.S. Senators John McCain, Jeff Flake, and Lamar Alexander protested the suspension, which was lifted in January 2016.
In 2016, stockholders of Apollo Education Group filed a class-action lawsuit against the corporation, arguing that the company withheld information that led to significant losses in stock prices. Several of the allegations are related to University of Phoenix's recruiting of military personnel and veterans.
The University of Phoenix claimed a peak enrollment of almost 600,000 students in 2010, but its numbers have declined sharply since then. Enrollment was 142,500 in August 31, 2016.
Various reasons have been given for the enrollment drop (and more than 100 campus closings). An article in The Wall Street Journal attributed the drop to operational changes amid criticism of high debt loads and low job prospects for students of for-profit colleges, while the University of Phoenix attributed it to operational changes including the implementation of student orientation, a free three-week trial period and a new entrance exam.
The average age of a University of Phoenix undergraduate student is 33. The average graduate student is 36. In 2007-08, the institution stated that nearly two-thirds of its students were women and that a plurality of students attending the school studied business (undergraduate students representing 29.9% and graduate students 12.9%), followed closely by those enrolled in Axia College for associate degrees (28.1%).
In 2013, the US Department of Defense ended its contract with University of Phoenix for military bases in Europe.
When calculated using the standards set by the Department of Education, the university's overall graduation rate in 2007 was 16 percent, which, when compared with the national average of 55 percent, was among the nation's lowest. The federal standard measured graduation rates as the percentage of first-time undergraduates who obtain a degree within six years.
The university acknowledged the 16-percent graduation rate but took exception to the standard used by the Department of Education to calculate the rate, saying that the rate was based upon criteria that applied to only seven percent of the university's student population. The university published its own graduation rate of 59 percent to account for its large population of non-traditional students.
The institution depends heavily on contingent faculty: 95 percent of Phoenix instructors teach part-time, compared to an average of 47 percent nationwide. This reliance on part-time faculty has been criticized by regulators and academic critics. Most of the classes are centrally crafted and standardized to ensure consistency and to maximize profits. Additionally, no faculty members get tenure.
According to a university officer, pre-screened instructional candidates participate in a training program in the discipline in which they teach, which has the effect of weeding out 40 percent to 50 percent of the "less-committed" or -capable applicants.
Adjuncts make approximately $1000-$2000 per course.
In February 2017, after being taken over by Apollo Global Management, University of Phoenix laid off 170 full-time faculty.
More than 925,000 alumni are counted as graduates of the university, according to the new president of the university. Phoenix alumni in the government sector include former Obama White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters (1994), and member of the Utah House of Representatives Brad Dee (1991).
In military and law enforcement, alumni include U.S. Navy Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, and assistant director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Harold Hurtt (1991). Former MSNBC anchor and a host of NBC's Early Today Christina Brown is also an alumna of the university.
Athletes who have earned degrees from the university include four-time NBA Championship-winner Shaquille O'Neal (2005), three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie, professional tennis player Michael Russell (2012). and Arizona Cardinals professional NFL football player (wide receiver) Larry Fitzgerald (2016). Fitzgerald graduated with a bachelor's degree shortly before his 33rd birthday. He majored in communications with a minor in marketing. (He began college in 2002 at the University of Pittsburgh.) He is currently a spokesman for the University of Phoenix and he often tells the story of promising his mother Carol that he would someday graduate from college. She died while he was still enrolled at Pittsburgh.