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Did The NYT Get It Wrong On The University Of Phoenix?

| 10 Comments

Yesterday, I told you how a NYT story about the University of Phoenix might have been just a wee bit too comfortably critical of nontraditional (for-profit) education compared to traditional education.

Today the University of Phoenix fired back, describing the NYT story as unfair, misleading, and "symptomatic of a prevailing bias against non-traditional higher education." The U of P not liking the story and writing an angry letter is one thing. But did the Times get the story wrong or present it misleadingly? Based on a very preliminary scan, it may have.

The most damning of the University's claims are that the Times (Sam Dillon wrote the story) wildly overplayed the notion that the University's graduation rate as just 16 percent, when that figure applies only to the tiny portion of the UofP's students who are "traditional" (ie, fulltime, 18-24, etc.) and are reported to the feds.

Only 7 percent of Phoenix students fit that description, according to the school. But the Times story presents it as representative of the whole. The mismatch between federal data collections and the real-world mix of students that many schools, not just UofP, have, is not reflected in the story.

According to the Times, "The university says that its graduation rate, using the federal standard, is 16 percent, which is among the nation’s lowest, according to Department of Education data. But the university has dozens of campuses, and at many, the rate is even lower...The official rates at some University of Phoenix campuses are extremely low — 6 percent at the Southern California campus, 4 percent among online students — and he acknowledged extraordinary attrition among younger students."

The UofP letter also points out (as I did in my Monday post) that the institution is regionally accredited like many traditional schools, and is "the most examined university in higher education."

I'm not saying that the University of Phoenix is the best thing since sliced bread, or that the Times definitively got it wrong. But I do know that far fewer students fit the traditional model than they used to, and it makes sense that would be the case even more so at a place like UofP. The Times story doesn't reflect that reality very well, mentioning other graduation rates but calling the 16 percent figure the "official" number -- which it may well be if you're the USDE, but I'm not sure that's the point here.

10 Comments

actually.. notice in the FIRE BACK letter at the NYT...

UOP says they are recognized by the...

"American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business and the American Association of Higher Education."

if they are, someone should tell Intel, looks like Pepicello has been spending too much time at the Cardinals games and not enough time reviewing UOP accreditation..

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rls=GGLD%2CGGLD%3A2005-18%2CGGLD%3Aen&q=intel+university+of+phoenix+%2B%22aacsb%22

This is an age old story. UOP delivers quality education to an important market demographic. The school is accredited in the same manner of many other schools across the United States.

Many schools do not offer an alternative learning model eg.. online - and must therefore find another way to compete with UOP. The method that students and other schools have chosen is to attempt to discredit the quality of education or the accreditation. The reality is - those schools wish they had the UOP delivery model - but they do not.

There are no students at the UOP in the MBA program for example, that intend to compete with Harvard, Wharton, Stanford or others. But these students will emerge with a sound graduate business education, capable of operating within the workforce in a manner that they would not have prior to the UOP program.

The school has several hundred thousand students, and many graduates. With the aging baby boomer generation moving to retirement the US better find a way to accept UOP - otherwise there will not be anyone to recruit.


Having recently completed a program in education from the University of Phoenix, I can attest to the quality of education. While working in corporate education and technical writing, I am more critical of the degrees offered through the U of P and am pleased with their output. The graduates with which I have worked are competent and able to work full-time while completing degrees in a non-traditional setting. Kudos to the U of P for being the first non-traditional distance learning university. Other schools are chasing U of P in hopes of one day catching up.

What many Americans don't understand is the commitment needed to complete a college degree. Couple that with the hit they take in the pocketbook if they fail a class-- and UOP has a case of vocal critics that are looking to place blame.

The non-profit, non-partisan Measuring Up 2006 report on U.S. education ranks the U.S. in the bottom half of degree completion at 17/100 (Total number of Degrees/Certificates Completed per 100 Students Enrolled) pg.8

Any financial aid student that fails or drops out of college is going to end up with debt; college is a big decision and commitment. UOP just happens to be a big and easy target.

This school is very over priced and the education is super poor!! Don't give into the over pushy sales people and do some research before you even think about attending.

www.myuopmistake.com

I graduated from UOP (MBA) and earned 2 MA's and a Ph.D. elsewhere. The quality of education at UOP far exceeded the two other Masters programs. The curriculum at UOP was developed at UOP after much trial and error, and is based on high standards and not left to individual instructors. This allows the instructors to focus on "teaching" and not on not re-inventing the wheel of designing lesson plans, as we find in most other universities. I teach as adjunct professor at 2 well known "traditional" universities. Often I get a phone call only days before a class is scheduled to begin and told to design my own syllabus! I don't have the facts, but my suspicion is that this is an intentional attack on UOP's success by those with interests in some of the more traditional universities.

Good comments, thanks.

I don't think the point of the Times article is to denegrate non-traditional education as whole, but instead point out how this institution may be failing, its customers. After all, shouldn't this kind of education be accountable for its practices, just like Harvard. Perhaps its too simplistic to say the Times is elitist (which it surely is) and therefore anything it says is suspect or wrong.

The Times piece, unfortunately for te UOP, follows a stretch of unsettling revelations about the school. Any simple internet search will uncover numerous hits on the UOP, the most disturbing is a 2004 45 page report released by the U.S. Department of Education.

Here are a few quotes from the report, which all should read for themselves. I provides far more context to the Times piece.

“The actions of UOP and the system it has established cultivates and maintains a corporate culture of defiance of UOP’s fiduciary duty. UOP has created an environment that pits the strong motivation of individual gain against its fiduciary duty to the Department. It is one that flaunts the Departments regulations and the prohibition against incentive compensation based on enrollments.”

“The sales philosophy at UOP and practice is designed around evasion and relies upon euphemisms to avoid detection by the Department. UOP systematically established terminology and procedures to hide the fact that UOP pays distinct and significant financial incentives solely based on recruiters’ success in securing enrollments.”

“UOP’s behavior during the program review process further substantiates the ethical concerns expressed by both current and former employees.”

I encourage all to read this report, just google UOP Department of Education.

Thanks all....

Thank you for your post.

The problem with higher education in this country is deep rooted and certainly will not be solved within a well intentioned blog. UOP serves a vital purpose and is the subject of critical reflection at least partially because of size.

The DOE report is not positive regarding recruiting practices. The parctices are certainly different at UOP as is the student population dependent upon the program - graduate or undergraduate. But I offer this argument for consideration. If we were to provide an incentive for a student to be recruited at UOP is that different than recruiting a student to an NCAA school which receives additional ticket sales or incentive comp for the coach ? Is it different than recruiting and admitting a student because his/her parents will endow a contribution to the school ? Equally inappropriate.

The problem is clear. UOP is large, attacks the accepted model and is rewarded with critical thought. The problem in academia is not UOP - its is academia.

Poor reading and writing skills I witness about these students who are not performing to minimal University standards. To reflect on avid reading of Will and Ariel Durant or the Oxford English Dictionary are pursuits that common America declares as foreign and laborious. Sheila Cooper and Rosemary Paton would agree: most of these students don't even consider issues regarding apposition, dangling modifiers, parallel structure, modifying phrases and clauses, etc. An immense subject, but I must continue to pursue more Aristotle remaining perhaps in Arabic hands; I welcome U o P to hire true Graduate-level Professors; instead, they cater to Elementary and Secondary School Teachers who could not work at the true Graduate level. Boethius, C.L. Lewis, my reading list is ad infinitum. That cannot be nurtured by those who restrict their reading to Primary and Secondary School levels.

Poor reading and writing skills I witness about these students who are not performing to minimal University standards. To reflect on avid reading of Will and Ariel Durant or the Oxford English Dictionary are pursuits that common America declares as foreign and laborious. Sheila Cooper and Rosemary Paton would agree: most of these students don't even consider issues regarding apposition, dangling modifiers, parallel structure, modifying phrases and clauses, etc. An immense subject, but I must continue to pursue more Aristotle remaining perhaps in Arabic hands; I welcome U o P to hire true Graduate-level Professors; instead, they cater to Elementary and Secondary School Teachers who could not work at the true Graduate level. Boethius, C.L. Lewis, my reading list is ad infinitum. That cannot be nurtured by those who restrict their reading to Primary and Secondary School levels.

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