University of Phoenix

The University of Phoenix (UOPX) is an American for-profit institution of higher learning, headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona

University of Phoenix has an open-enrollment admission policy, requiring a high-school diploma, GED, or its equivalent as its criterion for admissions. The university has 112 campuses worldwide and confers degrees in over 100 degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree levels. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Group Inc., a publicly traded (NASDAQ: APOL) Phoenix-based corporation that owns several for-profit educational institutions.

The University of Phoenix closed 115 of its campuses in 2013, previously having over 200.  The University of Phoenix attained a peak enrollment of almost 600,000 students in 2010, but its numbers have declined almost 60 percent since 2010. The enrollment drop has been attributed to operational changes amid criticism of high debt loads and low job prospects for university students. These changes included allowing students to try classes before officially enrolling and recruiter training programs that are designed to improve student retention and completion rates. In October 2013, Apollo Group reported University of Phoenix’s degreed total enrollment 269,000, an 18% decline from 2012. New degreed enrollment fell 22% to 41,000.

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.

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 Learningto accelerate its efforts to incorporate adaptive learning into its academic platform.

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.

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