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The University of Phoenix (UPX) is a private for-profit institution of higher learning. As the university with the largest student body in North America, it has a current enrollment of 420,700 undergraduate students and 78,000 graduate, or 224,880 full-time equivalent students. The school was founded in 1976 by John Sperling and is owned by the Apollo Group, Inc. The university has more than 200 campuses worldwide and confers degrees in over 100 degree programs at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.


the early 1970s, at San José State Universitymarker in California, John Sperling and several associates conducted field-based research in adult education. The focus of the research was to explore teaching/learning systems for the delivery of educational programs and services to working adult students who wished to complete or further their education in ways that took into consideration both their experience and current professional responsibilities. At that time, colleges and universities were organized primarily around serving the needs of the 18–22-year-old undergraduate student — given that the large majority of those enrolled were residential students of traditional college age, just out of high school. “According to Sperling, working adult students were often invisible on traditional campuses and treated as second-class citizens.” John Sperling once stated that the University of Phoenix was, "a corporation, not a social entity. Coming here is not a rite of passage. We are not trying to develop . . . [students'] value systems or go in for that 'expand their minds' bullshit."

The first class consisted of only eight students. Sperling founded the university in 1976 in Phoenix, Arizonamarker. In 1980, the school expanded to San Jose, Californiamarker. By 1989, the university was among the first providing an online program for students.

University of Phoenix is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apollo Group, Inc., is publicly traded on and is a S&P 500 corporation based in Phoenix, Arizonamarker. The school was the top recipient of student financial aid funds for the 2008 fiscal year, receiving nearly $2.48 billion for students enrolled. In 2006, due largely to the efforts attributed to the Apollo group, the "50 percent" rule (requiring colleges and universities to conduct at least half of their instruction in person in order to receive federal aid or collect federal student loans) was modified. It no longer classifies students receiving instruction through telecommunications methods as correspondence students. As such, these students now qualify for federal student aid. The Department of Education requires that this method must include a significant amount of interactivity, to prevent correspondence programs from skirting the rule by using minor emails or just posting course materials like syllabi on their websites.

In May 2008, the school announced the formation of the University of Phoenix National Research Center. It is designed to study which teaching methods work best for nontraditional students. The development of the research center is under advisement by a board comprising a former dean of education at the University of Virginiamarker; a consultant on learning and a former official with the College Board, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

The University of Phoenix Stadiummarker in Glendale, Arizonamarker is a municipal sports arena, best known as the home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals and the site of the NCAA's Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. The University paid $154.5 million for 20 year naming rights for advertising purposes though does not, itself, participate in intercollegiate sports. Instead of heavy spending on a sports program to increase name recognition, it simply linked its name to sports by buying the naming rights to a football stadium.

The University of Phoenix abbreviates its name as "UOPX".

Campuses and online services

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 utilize tutoring/social centers which can also be used for social and student learning interactions. The first center opened in 2007 in Plano, Tex.Students have access to class-specific online resources which include an electronic library, textbooks and other ancillary material required for the course. The university says that the electronic textbooks include search features and hyperlinks to glossary terms that make the books easier to use when working on research papers and other documents.

Through their online portal, or "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 2008, the University of Phoenix was ranked #25 in the world for online degree programs by OEDb.

Academic profile

The university offers several different programs of study, all administered through four colleges — the John Sperling School of Business and Technology, the Artemis School (administering art, education, and health fields), the School of Advanced Studies (overseeing doctoral programs), and Axia College (managing associate's degrees). 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 teach one another by working on projects for four or five hours per week in what it calls “learning teams,” wherein students engage classmates in course material discussions. Some academicians and former students feel the abbreviated courses and the use of learning teams results in an inferior education. The course schedule may be more convenient for professionals who can log on anytime. University Of Phoenix Opens Campus In Columbia<, Bnet,="" South="" Carolina="" Business,="" April="" 1,="" 2007="" by="" Jodie="" Ploessi<=""></,>a>


The University of Phoenix was regionally accredited in 1978 by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) as a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). It also has accreditation for a variety of its specialty degree programs, including:

Nursing Accreditation — The B.S. in Nursing and the M.S. in Nursing degree programs are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). The CCNE is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Business Accreditation — All business programs from the Associate to the Doctoral levels have specialty accreditation through the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Only the ACBSP and AACSB are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for accreditation of business schools. Some companies (including the Intel Corporation, which eliminated tuition reimbursement for employees attending non-AACSB accredited schools) and academics have concerns that UPX's business program is not accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). John J. Fernandes, the AACSB's president, said the University of Phoenix has never applied for membership because he feels they know their chances of accreditation through AACSB due to UPX's "come-and-go" faculty. Only forty-two percent of business schools in the United States possess external specialty accreditation. There are three principal accrediting agencies for business programs, AACSB which is recognized by the CHEA and is a research and excellence in instruction oriented accreditation, ACBSP which is also recognized by CHEA and is a more business oriented accreditation, and IABSP. These three accreditations represent the majority of specialty business accreditation. A perception survey shows greater prestige associated with AACSB accreditation, which accredits less than 25% of all business schools in the United States, especially in academia, though research shows clear benefits from typical schools from each of the three accreditation standards. A May 2000 benchmarking study commissioned by the AACSB and the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) in Houston, Texas identified the University of Phoenix, along with Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Ohio University’s MBA Without Boundaries Program, UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management and Wake Forest University as engaging in exemplary practices with regard to their Technology Mediated Learning (TML) programs. The programs were evaluated on the dimensions of organizational practices, learning practices, teaching practices, and approaches to assessment of TML outcomes.

Teacher Education Accreditation — The M.A. in Education degree program is preaccredited by the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC) for a period of five years, from December 20, 2007 to December 20, 2012. The TEAC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the CHEA.

Counseling Accreditation — The M.S. in Counseling degree program in Community Counseling and the M.S. in Counseling degree program in Mental Health Counseling are accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The CACREP is recognized by the CHEA.


The 2008 UPX Academic Report shows a diverse student and faculty makeup. According to demographic information in the report, on average the student/faculty population is more diverse than the national average for higher education institutions. African-Americans make up more than 15% of the university's 22,000 faculty members, with about 6% as Hispanic. The national average in recent years showed about 5% as African-American with about 3% as Hispanic. The student population is approximately 25% African-American and almost 13% Hispanic. This is as compared to national statistics from recent years showing 12% African-American populations and 10% Hispanics nationally. The university graduates a larger number of underrepresented students with master's degrees in business, health care and education than any other U.S. School. It is also ranked as the highest in graduating African American and American Indian students with master's degrees for all other disciplines. The underlying data for these conclusions was provided by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the '05-'06 academic year. The University of Phoenix was recently 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.

Students and graduation rates

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 their students are women and that 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%).

When calculated by the federal standard used 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 its Southern California campus (6%) and its online programs (4%). University of Phoenix acknowledges the 16% graduation rate but takes exception to the Federal standard used to calculate the rate, noting that the rate is based upon criteria which includes only 7% of UOPX's student population. The institution publishes its own nonstandard graduation rate of 59% to account for its large population of non-traditional students.


The University states that its faculty consists of approximately 1,500 core faculty and 20,000 associate faculty members and that all have masters or doctorate 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. UOPX's instructors describe themselves as "delivering" course material, since most of the classes are centrally crafted and standardized across teachers in order to ensure consistency and reduce costs for the school. Additionally, faculty do not get tenure. According to a University of Phoenix officer, pre-screened instructional candidates participate in a training program in the modality in which they teach, which he states has the effect of weeding out (40%-50%) of the less committed or capable applicants.


Alumni of UOPX include U.S. Navy Admiral Kirkland H. Donald, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters '94, four-time NBA Championship-winner Shaquille O’Neal '05, and three-time WNBA MVP Lisa Leslie.


University of Phoenix has been the subject of legal and regulatory controversies as a result of its student recruitment practices and accelerated academic schedule. There has also been concern expressed by former students, employees and academics that in its quest for higher profits the university has compromised academic quality. The student led "learning teams" that abbreviate class schedules and substitute for direct instruction time, the use of part-time faculty, high pressure sales techniques coupled with minimal acceptance standards to degree programs and low graduation rates as measured by Department of Education standards are some of the sources of this perception.

Legal and regulatory actions

A 2003 federal whistle-blower/false claims lawsuit, filed by two former UOPX admission counselors, alleged the university improperly obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid by paying its admission counselors solely based on the number of students they enrolled in violation of the Higher Education Act. The school counters that the lawsuit is a legal manipulation by two former university employees over a matter previously resolved with the U.S. Department of Education, however the Department does not share that view. UOPX's position was rejected by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in its 2006 published opinion, which reversed the Eastern California U.S. District Court's 2004 decision dismissing the lawsuit. The lawsuit is now set for trial on March 9, 2010. An October 4, 2009 Arizona Republic article reported that UOPX's parent company is engaged in talks to settle the lawsuit though no potential terms have been discussed.

In 2004, as a result of the filing of the false claims lawsuit, the Department of Education performed a program review and alleged that UOPX had violated Higher Education Act provisions that prohibit distributing financial incentives to admission representatives, had pressured its recruiters to enroll students and had concealed the practices from the Department. UOPX disputed the findings but paid a record $9.8 million dollar fine as part of a settlement where it admitted no wrongdoing and was not required to return any financial aid funds. UOPX's President states that though recruiters are paid a commission based on the number of students enrolled, their compensation is not based solely on that criteria, which makes the practice legal.

In January 2008, the university’s parent company, Apollo Group, Inc. was found guilty of misleading stockholders when it withheld the results of the 2004 Program Review cited above. A jury awarded $280 million to shareholders. However, U.S. District Judge James Teilborg overturned the verdict in August 2008, ruling that though UOPX “misled the market", investors failed to prove that they were damaged by UOPX's actions. The plaintiffs have appealed the judges decision.

In 2000, government auditors found UOPX did not meet conditions for including study group meetings as instructional hours thus their courses fell short of the minimum time required for federal aid programs. The university paid a $6 million fine as part of a settlement wherein they admitted no wrongdoing. However, in 2002, the Department of Education relaxed requirements covering instructional hours.

The U.S. Department of Education ordered the university to pay $650,000 for failing to promptly refund loans and grants for students who withdrew.

In December 2008, three former University of Phoenix students filed a class-action complaint against UOPX alleging that when the students withdrew, UOPX returned their entire loan money to the lender and then sought repayment from them. The alleged motivation was to "artificially deflate the cohort default rates", which impact a school's eligibility to receive Title IV funding. Apollo asserts that the students claim is that Apollo "improperly returned the entire amount of the students' federal loan funds to the lender." On January 21, 2009, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice to refiling.

The university has had various labor and discrimination issues. It paid $3.5 million to settle alleged violation of overtime compensation provision with the Department of Labor. In November 2008 it agreed to pay $1.89 million to settle allegations by the EEOC for alleged religious discrimination favoring Mormon enrollment counselors. In settling these matters, University of Phoenix did not admit any liability or wrongdoing.


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  2. University of Phoenix provides growth opportunities for working adults Lee Allen, Accessed 18 September, 2008
  3. New Models For Higher Education: Creating an Adult-Centered Institution Craig Swenson, Accessed 18 Sept, 2008
  4. Jennifer Washburn. 2005. University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education New York: Basic Books, p.x.
  5. Andrew Farrell Forbes (hosted on CBCNews), The Web Billionaires, September 19, 2008
  6. Telephony Online, Desktop degrees, University of Phoenix takes education on-line, May 26, 1997
  7. Top 100 Recipients of Federal Assistance for FY 2008,, US government
  8. Garett Ordower, "The Dot-Degree Boom," The Nation, March 28, 2006
  9. United States Department of Education letter dated April 27, 2006 re changes made by 2005 Higher Educational Reconciliation Act
  10. U. of Phoenix Draws Big Names to Advisory Panel on New Center on Teaching Adults Chronicle of Higher Education 2008-05-27
  11. U. of Phoenix Basks in the Super Exposure the Super Bowl Brings, The Chronicle of Higher Education, by GOLDIE BLUMENSTYK, August 28, 2008.
  12. Apollo Group Enters Mexican Education Market
  13. University of Phoenix fills online, campus classrooms Bob Pepalis, Accessed 18 September, 2008
  14. University of Phoenix Opens First Resource Center, Dallas Business Journal, July 19, 2007
  15. University Offers Real Job Training at Unreal Companies, by Paula Wasley, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 8, 2008
  16. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools website
  17. CCNE-Accredited Baccalaureate and Master's Nursing Degree Programs
  18. List of CHEA Institutions
  19. Current ACBSP Educational Institution Members
  20. Dawn Gilbertson, Losing Intel a blow to school, Arizona Republic, Dec 5, 2006
  21. Stu Woo, Intel Cuts 100 Colleges From Its Tuition-Reimbursement Program for Employees, The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 2, 2007.
  22. University of Phoenix Staggers Under Growing Criticism,, by Truman Lewis, February 11, 2007
  23. Charles P. Corcoran, Distinctions Among Accreditation Agencies For Business Programs, Journal of College Teaching & Learning, Volume 4, Number 9, September 2007
  24. Roller, Robert H., Andrews, B. & Bovee, S. (2003). Specialized Accreditation of Business Schools: A Comparison of Alternative Costs, Benefits, and Motivations. Journal of Education for Business. March/April, 197-204
  25. Maryam Alavi and Brent Gallupe, Technology-Mediated Learning: A Benchmarking Study of Business and Management Education. May 2000
  26. TEAC members by state
  27. Directory of CACREP Accredited Programs
  28. 2008 UPX Annual Academic Report
  29. U. of Phoenix Says Test Scores Vindicate Its Academic Model, Chronicle of Higher Education, BLUMENSTYK June 13, 2008
  30. University of Phoenix Ranks #1 in Graduating Master's Degree Students from Underrepresented Populations, Hispanic PR Wire
  31. University of Phoenix Ranked Among the Best in Serving Military and Veteran Students, PR Newswire
  32. Why Recent Criticism of the University of Phoenix is Unjustified, Rhonda P. Urban, Ementor, ezine by Warsaw School of Econmics
  33. University of Phoenix 2007 Fact Book
  34. Sam Dillon, Troubles Grow for a University Built on Profits, The New York Times, February 11, 2007.
  35. "Education for Profit-Why is everyone flaming the University of Phoenix?, Reason, Katherine Mangu-Ward, July 2008 Print Edition
  36. University of Phoenix Faculty Overview Accessed February 17, 2008
  37. Sam Dillon, Troubles Grow for a University Built on Profits, The New York Times, February 11, 2007.
  38. Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR) Supporting E-Learning at the University of Phoenix, Case Study 4, 2003
  39. United States Navy Biography U.S. Navy Website, Accessed March 13, 2008
  40. Events, drive keep DOT chief in the spotlight, USA Today website accessed February 12, 2008
  41. The Big Executive? Shaq masters MBA MSNBC Website, Accessed February 12, 2008
  42. SPORTS OF THE TIMES; University Sells Itself During Playoffs NYTimes Website, Accessed March 20, 2009
  43. Los Angeles Sparks Lisa Leslie Receives her Masters at University of Phoenix WireImage Website, Accessed March 20, 2009
  44. United States of America ex rel. Hendow v. University of Phoenix, Second Amended Complaint
  45. List of Court Documents Related to False Claims Suit
  46. Lisa M. Krieger Lawsuit: University of Phoenix breached ethics, laws, San Jose Mercury , Jun 23, 2007.
  47. United States of America ex rel. Hendow v. University of Phoenix Apollo Group Legal Information Center, accessed July 18, 2008
  48. United States of America ex rel. Hendow v. University of Phoenix, Brief for the United States as Amicus Curiaea in Support of Appellants
  49. United States of America ex rel. Hendow v. University of Phoenix, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, Opinion Reinstating Lawsuit and Remanding For Trial
  50. United States of America ex rel. Hendow v. University of Phoenix, Eastern District Court of California Order Dismissing Lawsuit
  51. University of Phoenix fraud case goes forward L.A. Times, August 21, 2007
  52. US DOE Program Review Report
  53. Student-recruitment Tactics at University of Phoenix Blasted by Feds Univ. of Phoenix Audit Leads to $9.8 mil Fine The Arizona Republic, September 14, 2004, by Dawn Gilbertson
  54. University of Phoenix Receives Record Fine Austin Business Journal, September 14, 2004
  55. U. of Phoenix Uses Pressure in Recruiting, Report Says - Institution disputes charges that it pumps up enrollment through illegal tactics, Chronicle of Higher Education, by Goldie Blumenstyk, October 8, 2004
  56. US DOE and U. of Phoenix Settlement Agreement
  57. Former "CFO for Apollo testifies-She says U.S. Education Report was withheld to avoid media" Bloomberg News, December 7, 2007, Dawn Gilbertson
  58. Jury Finds U of Phoenix Parent Company Liable for $280 Million Chronicle of Higher Education January 16, 2008]
  59. "Order Granting Judgment as a Matter of Law to Apollo Group"
  60. Judge Overturns $280 Million Verdict Against the Apollo Group, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 5, 2008
  61. "Notice of Appeal to 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
  62. Dealing in Diplomas, For the University of Phoenix, college is a big business - and getting bigger, The Dallas Morning News, February 28, 2004 by Katherine Yung
  63. Case 4:08-cv-04199-SWW, Plaintiff's Complaint
  64. Citron Research, January 13, 2009r
  65. U. of Phoenix Accused of Protecting Default Rate at Students' Expense, AACRAO Transcript, January 15, 2009 by Michelle Cormier
  66. Apollo Quarterly Report, Form 10-Q to the SEC
  67. "Plaintiff's Notice of Dismissal"
  68. University of Phoenix, Dept. of Labor Reach Overtime Agreement The Phoenix Business Journal, July 23, 2004
  69. Apollo to pay Department of Labor $2M-$3M to Settle Case Austin Business Journal, July 17, 2004.
  70. Bias lawsuit settled by Apollo Group November 4, 2008, by Dawn Gilbertson

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