The University of Phoenix (UPX,UoP UOPX) is a for-profit institution of higher learning. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Group Inc. which is a publicly traded () S&P 500 corporation based in Phoenix, Arizona. The university has more than 200 campuses worldwide and confers degrees in over 100 degree programs at the associate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.
The University of Phoenix is one of the largest higher education providers in North America. Although the university attained a peak enrollment of almost 600,000 students in 2010, a 30% enrollment drop in 2011 has been attributed to operational changes amid criticism of high debt loads and low job prospects for UOPX students. These changes include allowing students to try classes before officially enrolling and recruiter training programs that are designed to improve student retention and completion rates.
University of Phoenix has an open enrollment admission policy, requiring a high-school diploma, GED, or its equivalent as its criteria for admissions. The school also provides associate or bachelor's degree applicants opportunity for advanced placement through its prior learning assessment, which, aside from previous coursework, college credit can come from experiential learning essays, corporate training, and certificates or licenses.
The University of Phoenix was founded by John Sperling, who felt that "working adult students were often invisible on traditional campuses and treated as second-class citizens." Started in 1976 in the Phoenix metropolitan area, 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.
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 UOPX $6 million for failing to include study-group meetings as instructional hours. In 2002, the Department of Education relaxed requirements on instructional hours. A 2003 lawsuit filed by two former UOPX 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. UOPX'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 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. UOPX's president stated that though recruiters were paid a commission based on the number of students enrolled, their compensation is not based solely on that criteria. 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.
The university has been cited as an example of for-profit colleges that operate to receive government educational subsidies. 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.
The reception desk at Phoenix's Hawaii Campus, displaying a Service of Process placard The university has campuses and learning centers in 40 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Chile, and the Netherlands.
While the school specializes in online programs, the campuses offer additional programs and services. Online students are also able to use tutoring and social centers, which can also be used for social and student meetings. The first center opened in 2007 in Plano, Texas.
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 offers degree programs through seven colleges and two schools. These are named the School of Advanced Studies, School of Business, College of Criminal Justice and Security, College of Education, College of Humanities, College of Information Systems and Technology, College of Natural Sciences, College of Nursing, and the College of Social Sciences. 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, compared with about 40 hours at a traditional university. The university also requires students to collaborate by working on learning team projects, wherein the class will be divided into learning teams of four to five students. Each learning team is assigned a team forum where team members will discuss the project and submit their agreed upon portions of the learning team assignment for compilation by the nominated learning team leader. The concept of learning teams is somewhat uncommon in traditional academia; however, the University of Phoenix believes that collaborating on projects and having individuals rely on each other reflects the real working conditions of the corporate world.
Some academics and former students feel 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." In May 2008, the university announced the formation of the University of Phoenix National Research Center, designed to study which teaching methods work best for nontraditional students. The research center no longer exists.
Admissions and financial aid
The University of Phoenix has an open admissions policy. In response to complaints about the use of financial aid by for-profit colleges 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. Students who do not complete the workshop after two attempts must wait six months before attempting again.
Phoenix students are recruited using high pressure sales tactics by admissions counselors who are paid, in part, based on their success in recruiting students. The university heavily recruits students in order to obtain 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 Grants ($656.9 million) than that of any other university.
Through its online portal, eCampus, University of Phoenix students also have access to software required for coursework. Available, for example, are 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.
The University of Phoenix has been regionally accredited since 1978 by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) as a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).
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.
Organization and administration
University of Phoenix Stadium, a municipal sports arena for which the corporation paid for naming rights. University of Phoenix is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Group, a S&P 500 corporation based in Phoenix, Arizona.
Marketing and 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 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The university does not participate in intercollegiate sports.
The average age of a University of Phoenix student is between 33 (undergraduate) and 36 (graduate), and most students have work-related commitments. The University states that nearly two-thirds of its students are women and that a plurality of students attending the school study business (undergraduate students representing 29.9% and graduate students 12.9%), followed closely by those enrolled in Axia College for Associate's degrees (28.1%).
The student population is approximately 25% African-American and almost 13% Latino. The university graduates the largest number of underrepresented students with Master's degrees in business, health care, and education than any other U.S. school. The University of Phoenix was also named one of the nation's top 20 institutions of higher education favorable to military personnel, according to the December 2008 issue of Military Advanced Education. Nearly 29,000 active-duty military, their spouses, and veterans were enrolled in University of Phoenix degree programs at that time with more than 7,200 military members or veterans graduated from the university during that year.
When calculated using the standards set by the Department of Education, UOPX's overall graduation rate is 16%, which, when compared to the national average of 55%, is among the nation's lowest. The federal standard measures graduation rates as the percentage of first-time undergraduates who obtain a degree within six years. The number is significantly lower at iUOPX's Southern California campus (6%) and its online programs (4%). This measurement does not take into consideration the typical University of Phoenix student who comes to the University as a dropout from another institution, so is not a first-time college student. The University of Phoenix acknowledges the 16% graduation rate but takes exception to the standard used by the Department of Education to calculate the rate, saying that the rate is based upon criteria that apply to only 7% of UOPX's student population. The institution publishes a self-calculated graduation rate of 59% to account for its large population of non-traditional students.
The university's faculty consists of approximately 1,500 core faculty and 20,000 associate (part-time or adjunct) faculty members who all hold graduate degrees. UOPX's reliance on part-time faculty 95 percent of Phoenix instructors teach part time, compared to an average of 47 percent nationwide has been criticized by regulators and academic critics. Most of the classes are centrally crafted and standardized across teachers in order to ensure consistency and reduce costs for the school. Additionally, faculty members do not get tenure. According to a University of Phoenix officer, pre-screened instructional candidates participate in a training program in the discipline in which they teach, which he states has the effect of weeding out 40% 50% of the less committed or capable applicants.
African-Americans make up more than 15% of the university's 22,000 faculty members, and about 6% are Latino.
As of March 2010, 538,000 people have graduated from the University of Phoenix. Phoenix alumni in the government sector include White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters ('94), and member of the Utah House of Representatives Brad Dee ('91).
In military and law enforcement, alumni include U.S. Navy Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, and Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Harold Hurtt ('91). 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 ('05) and three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie.
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